Digitalization has changed everything, including the way we innovate. That means new public administration technologies too.
The pace at which we need to update is constantly increasing, especially when it comes to providing individuals with what they really need. This is also true for Public Administrations, which must necessarily integrate the main technological innovations to be able to ensure effective, efficient, and adequate services that meet expectations.
So, what are the innovations that can help the PA (and its citizens) benefit from digital transformation?
Public Administration technologies and social networks
The first innovation that has affected the Public Administration technologies concerns the way it communicates with citizens. Every public body must necessarily deal with the fact that people expect to find all the information they need on the internet and social.
The web and social platforms are the second most popular source of information, preceded only by television. This pairs up with another data point that completes the picture, that more than four out of 10 Italians consider the information they find on the web from Public Administrations to be reliable; this figure exceeds 50% for those in the 18-54 age bracket.
The Public Administration must take be able to apply this in its favor. Another important trend in the digital world (also thanks to the spread of social networks) is disintermediation, in other words, the disappearance of the middleman for many transactions. Today, administrations can simply create a profile on social media channels like Facebook or Twitter where they will be able address citizens directly, thus reducing the perceived distance.
This reduces the perceived distance that citizens often feel with their government and improves their perception of the Public Administration, which has the opportunity to be more attentive to the needs of the individual by providing simple tools to respond quickly to problems and adapting to the most common habits.
In recent years, the number of Italians who use social media are increasingly; public bodies must begin to do the same.
In addition, the use of social media allows the Public Administration to transmit its messages more effectively. However, such channels require management, and you need to know how to use them properly, according to the channel’s specific characteristics, available functions, and the type of users who are most likely to engage there.
In other words, we need to integrate social media into a coherent and integrated communication strategy, where each channel is associated with a different communication objective.
On closer inspection, there are already several examples of public institutions implementing this strategy. One of these is the Italian city of Trieste. Not only is the city active on six different social networks, but it has also managed to build an effective and efficient internal and external flow of information through the diversification of language and content.
In this way, each channel has a clear communication identity and the city develops specific editorial content for each one.
Another equally interesting example is that of the Quirinale, the home of the Italian government, which has at least four official accounts that are used depending on the content to be shared. It uses Twitter to provide updates on the activities of the President and the President of the Republic; Instagram is used to share photographs of the President’s activities; the Youtube channel shares video content produced by the Press Office; it also once employed Google+ to report news about the presidency in English for the international public.
With this approach, not only is the message and channel really combined so that one strengthens the other, but it is also possible to pursue different objectives at the same time, setting specific KPIs for each channel.
Obviously, to do all this, it is not enough to monitor social networks, you also need someone who knows these channels very well and knows how to make the best use of the available functions. For this reason, every public body should have a public a professional figure who is specialized in the management of social channels: a social media manager.
In this way, the structure of internal communication within the Public Administration could finally be updated, overcoming the well-known and now obsolete roles outlined in Law 150/2000, which generally concerns the “discipline of information and communication activities of public administrations.”
In this way, it would also be possible to change the very concept of public communication, moving from an approach based on broadcasting and one-way dialog to a more innovative structure suitable for new technologies, where the relationship is much more equal and the exchange of information is more fluid and immediate.
The Public Administration technologies and Blockchain
For some time now, blockchain has been the focus of attention for the benefits that it could offer for the entire Public Administration. Before going into detail, however, it is worth spending a few words about this revolutionary technology.
Let’s start by defining it. Put simply, blockchain is a system of data collection and management, structured in blocks that contain transactions linked together in such a way that each transaction initiated on the network must be validated by the network itself through the analysis of each block. In other words, blockchain works as a kind of shared public register that stores assets and transactions on a peer-to-peer network.
Its function is to allow management of all the collateral information to a transaction through encryption between the participants of the network, which periodically verify the package of information present in each block.
This makes the data unchangeable since the modification requires “collective” action. The content of each block, in fact, can be modified only through an operation that will require the approval of the majority of the nodes of the network that will not have any impact on the “historical:” each modification, in fact, leaves a trace on the path of the information itself.
For this reason, it can be said that blockchain is a sort of decentralized ledger, which allows the exchange of information and values between private individuals in safe way, because there is not just one “book,” but many copies of it by as many validators, which certify the validity of the transaction.
But is it possible to introduce such a system into the Public Administration?
The answer is surprisingly yes. According to a recent PWC survey involving 600 executives from 15 different countries (of which 46 are Italian executives), many public administrations are working in this direction. In fact, 84% of respondents stated that they were involved at various levels in blockchain-related activities. Of these, 20% are working on research, 32% are active in the development, 10% are engaged in pilot projects, 15% are already in production while 7% say they have projects underway, while only 14% have not worked with this technology.
Therefore, also in Italy, blockchain could be an effective technology for streamlining some bureaucratic procedures.
Take, for example, public records. If we implemented blockchain in the management of land registers and real estate, we could imagine a system in which subjects (such as notaries or lawyers) could make their own registrations and make the necessary changes and benefit from widespread control offered by the network itself.
Another area in which blockchain authorization could be used is the business register to mark the transfer of ownership of shares, or the public automobile register, so as to allow for faster updating and correction.
The public health sector can also be an area of application to enable better sharing of medical records without compromising the security and integrity of patient data.
Blockchain has many applications that can benefit a wide variety of sectors.
One benefit is increased transparency, since the content of registers established by the community cannot be changed incorrectly. Among other things, the fact that control is widespread and not linked to authority makes the Public Administration feel even closer to the citizens.
Secondly, blockchain chronologically records all transactions that take place, creating an unalterable chain of blocks. This means that every operation is recorded and that the Public Administration, which should leave the central control system, has the ability to keep track of every change.
Finally, this technology allows you to implement forms of control less onerous both in terms of time and resources to be employed. In this way, offices can become more streamlined and efficient, bringing citizens closer to the institutions.
Public Administration technologies and Artificial Intelligence
We often talk about how important the customer experience is in the private sector: providing the consumer with a memorable experience makes him more satisfied and therefore more faithful and, as a result, the business is more successful.
The same applies to the Public Administration, which can benefit from several advantages: it can improve its reputation among citizens, make its services more accessible and respond quickly to their needs, providing them with personalized treatment.
From this point of view, the innovation that can enable this is undoubtedly Artificial Intelligence, which is a driving force for the Public Administration together with blockchain.
Both are systemic technologies, i.e. they can improve products and services through the formation of new models and the creation of added value, provided that the number of players involved is sufficiently high.
Our AI white paper for public administrations contains advice and indications on how best to use the opportunities offered by Artificial Intelligence while limiting the risks. This document is actually part of a broader plan, of which it is only one piece. AGID, in fact, has been allocated €5 million for the development of a pilot project involving as many administrations as possible. There are already many cases in which AI applied in the Public Administration has made services more efficient and accessible to all.
One of these, for example, is Borbot, the project initiated by Italy’s Royal Palace of Caserta. Borbot is a virtual assistant on the museum’s Facebook page, which through the mechanisms of machine learning, answers questions from users and provides detailed information and updated news to tourists.
Or the Smart Planner initiative, which involves the municipalities of cities including Bologna, Trento, and Rovereto, that aims to improve city mobility by exploiting the AI techniques of automatic planning. Users, in fact, just need to connect to an app from their smartphone to immediately receive the quickest and most environmentally friendly solutions to reach a certain destination in the city.
There are many examples, and they all show that AI has a lot of potential and applications. If properly designed and implemented, these solutions can improve the lives of citizens, reducing social spending and automating many processes within the Administration and offering citizens the opportunity to interact with the State in a more agile, effective, and personalized way.
That doesn’t mean that all that glitters is gold. Artificial Intelligence also brings with it some significant criticisms, both in terms of ethics, as well as at the legislative and technical level.
On the one hand, it is necessary for the Public Administration to be open and willing to experiment with new technologies and to integrate them into its internal procedures. At the same time, however, it must ensure that this does not put the security of the agencies and the data of the citizens, which they entrust to the Public Administration in the face of an indispensable relationship of trust, at risk.
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