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Public Administration and capitalism of the digital platforms

Rome, 17/04/2019, National Roundtable

The aim of this Aspen Institute Italia round table was to examine the public administration’s role in meeting the challenges posed by technological innovation. A background document entitled “Public administration and digital platform capitalism” was presented during the meeting.

Firstly, the debate underscored the need to rethink traditional government decision-making processes and to reform organizational models in order to tap the potential of computerized systems more fully. Indeed, digitalization makes it possible to improve the public administration’s efficiency in providing services to citizens and the business community by eliminating archaic and superfluous procedures and simplifying its relationship with users. Therefore, digitalization should be the focus of present and future government policies. Strengthening the current institutional governance model would reduce skills fragmentation by fostering better coordination between public agencies and increasing the political and administrative powers of specific authorities to promote and guide digital development. More investment in this sector is also needed, and should be directed toward networks and digital infrastructures; in addition to recruiting technologically expert upper- and middle-management personnel.

The digital economy renders inevitable government intervention in the regulation of major platforms based on personal data access and sharing. The platforms of major private enterprises have long been able to grow and develop in the absence of government regulation. It is increasingly considered necessary, however, that public institutions establish detailed rules for protecting the rights of citizens that avail themselves of the services those platforms provide. In particular, the government should ensure networks and personal data greater security, and prevent digitalization processes from becoming the monopoly of a few IT giants. It is therefore necessary to adopt, at both national and international levels, legislation capable of better safeguarding digital market competition and preventing the establishment of dominant positions.

Finally, the discussion highlighted another and certainly not secondary aspect of the role that administrations should play in the digital era. Indeed, in addition to reforming their organizations and procedures and regulating the activities of digital multinationals, public agencies should strive to bridge that digital divide that deprives broad population segments of the benefits of the technical/scientific revolution by incentivizing private investments, facilitating web access and disseminating a new digital culture. The administration’s efforts can therefore give impetus to the digitalization of Italian society as a whole.