An Interview With Italy's CIO GUIDO M. REY

Guido M. Rey is president of AIPA (Autorita per L'informatica nell' Amministrazione Pubblica) -- in effect, the CIO of the government of Italy, a country with a population of about 60 million. AIPA promotes, coordinates, plans and controls the development of information systems within the government's central organizations and agencies, and is responsible for their standardization, connection and integration. A key part of that effort is the Unified Network, which will eventually connect every government office, at every level, in Italy. He was interviewed in Italian by International and Products Editor Kaveh Ghaemian. The Italian text can be found on Government Technology's Web site in the International section.

by / November 30, 1998
Q:What information technology projects are you currently working on?

A: Our agency is building a networked information system for public administration. In the last few months, our Parliament has approved a number of enabling measures, including legalizing electronic documents and digital signatures. And we have drafted specifications for interconnection and interoperability of the network.

The pilot project, G-net, connects all the top ministers in the national government and the ministry CIOs. G-net will eventually become part of the Unified Network.

Q: How will this network assist Italy's government this coming year?

A: The Unified Network represents an opportunity for improving services and operations by sharing information among all ministries. It will allow even different government sectors to exchange messages instantly. Government staff will be able to reach one another in realtime. This will allow real cooperative and collaborative work to occur. This represents conditions that until recently were unimaginable. It will allow us to rethink and reinvent the role, services and processes of public administration.

The Unified Network will follow innovative models in integrating and sharing information while respecting the autonomy of departmental management.

Through the network, it will be possible to access or find information where it is made and managed, and to motivate cooperation with more innovative government offices.

Next year will bring new applications, such as digital signatures and optical storage of documents. Eventually, the Unified Network will improve service to the citizen, and could allow access to vital statistics, land information, etc.

Q: What percentage of AIPA employees have access to personal computers? Have you seen an increase in confidence at this point?

A: All the employees of the authority use a PC for work and all are connected to the network. The familiarity with and use of the computer has increased in the AIPA with training courses offered for employees.

Within four years, public agencies are planning to fully automate the creation, management, dissemination and use of their data and documents.

Q: Are there current university programs encouraging young people to study technology?

A: The AIPA has the task of improving IT competence in the public sector and controllling the activities developed by the ministries in this area.

The Ministry of Public Education has recently become involved in the process of computerizing elementary and high schools. Currently, the ministry is supplying all schools with at least one computer that is connected by a network to the Ministry of Education, school boards and all of the schools and colleges. Additionally, there are degree programs in computer science within university engineering and science departments.

Q: What are the current challenges Italy faces in trying to harness information technology?

A: There is always resistance, especially where there are centers of power that are jealous of the information they possess, and they fear a reduction of their role and their power if they share their data.

The advantages of IT, not only for public employees, but also for citizen access, will eventually overcome the obstacles to computer-based or telematic systems.

Q: What effect will the Internet and intranets have over the next year or two in the government?

A: The Unified Network is still in the pilot phase. The G-net pilot will be operational by the end of 1998 and eventually will give access to the Internet and, consequently, to major data centers. That will inevitably provide support and relief for acquiring information for the process of making decisions.

Currently, single administrative units do not coordinate, but when they get on the Internet, this should help them do so.

Q: Does top management understand the information economy and its implications?

A: I think that in Italy we are fortunate to have representatives of government, of the citizenry, who are receptive to the development of information technology.

The Parliament is also helping with regulations and laws that recognize the value of computer-based information and that support the development of information technologies such as optical storage, and who are assisting in the development of the Unified Network.

Q: What do you think of the European Union? Is it having an effect on Italy? Are elected officials and senior management global in their outlook?

A: As all the polls show, Italy looks at the European Union with great favor. There is the opinion that the EU will be positive for the whole system. Adapting to European standards will present its own problems, which, until now, have been ignored.

A global vision is one of the main objectives of the AIPA, such as through the realization of a unified information system and to share information.

We believe one positive return from the EU will be the standardization of the rights and obligations of citizens and countries, and within those standards, the AIPA will supply quality and quantity services.

The AIPA Web site, including general information in English, is at .

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