Italy's minister for technological innovation and digital transition has vowed to simplify red tape by accelerating the rollout of a nationwide digital platform for citizens, as part of a €248bn recovery plan designed to reignite the eurozone's third-largest economy.
Vittorio Colao, a former chief executive of Vodafone, said the online portal would allow Italians to do everything from paying taxes to booking vaccines and simplify overlapping regional and national state competencies. It would act as a catalyst for the revamp of the pandemic-hit economy led by Prime Minister Mario Draghi, he added.
"If I had to say why Italy is behind today, it is because of legal and administrative complexity, which as a government we are determined to simplify," he told the Financial Times.
He added: "This is the moment to do this. It has not happened in the past because probably the urgency was not felt, or probably the resistance was strong. The sad story of Covid is it has not only taken away lives but hit the economy in many important ways. Now the sense of urgency and need is higher."
Draghi, former president of the European Central Bank, was tasked by Italy's president earlier this year to form a government of national unity after its last coalition collapsed. Colao was the chief executive of British telecoms group Vodafone between 2008 and 2018 and, until becoming a minister, lived in London. He is one of several business experts appointed by Draghi.
Colao said he was determined to extend the use of the existing online portal to the whole population before upgrading it into "a notification platform that includes everything from fines, taxes, court orders and vaccinations ".
About a third of Italians have signed up to the existing platform, called SPID. Colao said that in the first quarter of this year the digital service had processed 120m transactions compared with 143m for the whole of 2020.
Colao said that increasing the number of digital interactions Italians had with the state through the website would facilitate the government's plans to invest in education and digital skills.
Use of online services in Italy is among the lowest in the EU. Only 38 per cent of Italians aged between 16 and 74 bought goods and services online in 2019, the third lowest share in the EU, on par with Bulgaria and Romania, Eurostat said.
Half of Italians aged 16-74 used a portable computer or handheld device to access the internet away from work or home in 2019, compared with 73 per cent of all Europeans on average.
The size of the EU-backsd investment package was "eye popping", Colao said, "but the real core of our plan are the reforms, and investment in people. Italy now wants to invest in its own people and talent, and improve the opportunities for those who are here.
"You have to invest in the whole conveyor belt, from kindergarten to PhD research. This country has been very erratic in the past and this is not an area where you can be erratic. You have to be systematic as the production cycle for intellectual innovation is 15 to 30 years."
Colao said these effort should help the country create conditions to stop the exodus of talent abroad and attract foreign investors.
intervista di Miles Johnson, pubblicata il 17 maggio 2021