From a nationwide registry to electronic payments: 10 things you can do to digitally transform a Municipality

Luca Attias
Jul 11 · 14 min read

by Luca Attias, Simone Piunno, and Giuseppe Virgone

Questo articolo è disponibile anche in italiano

The digital transformation didn’t just appear from nowhere, to be lowered from on high upon all Public Administrations. It’s a gradual, bottom-up process, one in which local administrations must act as protagonists.

This is a game where everyone wins:

  • Local administrations win because they can significantly improve their services, avoid waste and save resources;
  • Citizens win because they can count on cutting-edge services tailored to fit real, individual needs;
  • The country system wins because digitization is a real incentive for achieving excellence and furthering development. Digitization can also solve serious problems (like corruption) with transparency.

There are over eight thousand Municipalities in Italy, from large metropolitan cities to small mountain towns. These eight thousand Municipalities can serve as the capillary engine behind digital transformation. They have the advantage of sharing the same problems and (fortunately!) the same solutions.

In this guide we will present the main solutions that every Italian Municipality can adopt (and must adopt, in cases where it is required by law) to become a virtuous administration and win the game of digital transformation.


The funding is there

Let’s start with the good news: digital transformation is a strategic asset for Italy, which has, as such, dedicated funding and investments to its cause. This allows Municipalities, which are often struggling with budget constraints and lack of money, to manage the change.

These are the principal tools available to us:

  • The budget law of 2017 (December 11, 2016) made it possible for Municipalities to ask for financial support in derogation of the Balanced Budget Rule, to be used for certain kinds of public good investments, including, for example, schools building and retrofitting and preventing and controlling hydrogeological instability. Thanks to the updated Digital Administration Code (CAD), Municipalities can, starting in 2018, apply this measure and ask for funding for investments related to implementing the Three-Year Plan for Digital Transformation, allowed Municipalities to ask for financial support outside of the Balanced Budget Rule , to be used for certain kinds of public good investments, including, for example, building and retrofitting schools and preventing and controlling hydrogeological instability. Starting in 2018, thanks to the updated Digital Administration Code (CAD), Municipalities can apply this measure and ask for funding for investments related to implementing the Three-Year Plan for Digital Transformation, which includes all points in this guide.
  • From 2018, specific loans provided by Cassa Depositi e Prestiti are also available to support initiatives linked to implementing the Three-Year Plan. Municipalities can apply for these funds through regular loans from CDP under these conditions.

In addition to these opportunities, there also exists a non-repayable loan intended for all Municipalities that join the National Resident Population Registry (ANPR). This will be discussed in the next point.

Digital transformation requires initial investments. However, as we will explore in detail, it always enables significant savings by cutting costs, waste and unnecessary processes, sometimes even in the short term.


The ABC’s of Digital Transformation

The first steps to take are those required by law. These represent the foundations, the infrastructure, the digital plumbing of a Municipality’s services.

Photo: Rob Curran on Unsplash

1) Join the National Registry

The National Resident Population Registry (ANPR) is a single registry, which all Italian Municipalities are required to join by law (article 62 of the CAD, available in Italian). To enter ANPR means to stop independently managing citizen data on local servers or paper archives and move to a more effective, secure, and updated centralized system, able to interact with other Public Administrations and digital services.

Over 21.7 million people are currently registered in the National Registry. According to predictions, this number will reach 45 million Italians by the end of 2019. Municipalities that don’t already belong to it can:

It takes about two months to subjoin. For more information on ANPR and the takeover process, see the frequently asked questions (FAQs - available in Italian).

To learn more about the ANPR project:

2) Activate digital payments with pagoPA

Payment management constitutes a very significant cost for Municipalities. Paying fines, TARI (garbage collection tax), nursery school fees, and school lunches requires elaborate and time consuming transactions: receipts, reconciliation, individual reminders, cash management, insurance, agreements with Payment Service Providers, etc.

PagoPA, the Public Administration payment platform, solves most of these problems (and reduces the related costs) by making a free, simple and secure system available to Municipalities for automating payments, collections and reconciliations (here is a list of the advantages of using pagoPA - available in Italian).

PagoPA membership is required by law (available in Italian). Municipalities not already signed up can:

  • follow the steps for joining described in this guide (available in Italian);
  • integrate PagoPA with all online and offline services (for example, by including the option of paying via pagoPA on paper notices) with the technical support of a dedicated team.

For more information on how pagoPA works, you can read the FAQs and the technical guide to fulfilling the requirements of organizations that adhere to pagoPA (available in Italian).

To learn more about pagoPA:

3) Integrate the single digital identity system

SPID is the single authentication system for using online public services. Citizens can acquire a SPID identity (i.e. a username and password connected to their smartphone) through private providers (see the list here - available in Italian) and use these credentials as a recognition system for accessing any Public Administration online service. To date, there are about four thousand Public Administrations that allow access to at least one service through SPID (see the list here - available in Italian).

SPID can be integrated with any digital service belonging to a Municipality. Thanks to the integration, a Municipality can:

  • verify a citizen’s identity when offering an online service;
  • customize services, for example, by creating reserved areas on your portal where citizens can find documents and certificates that concern them;
  • free itself of the complexities and responsibilities connected to securing information access and the protection of personal data (GDPR).

The use of SPID is required by law for all Municipalities (Article 64 of the CAD - available in Italian). To use SPID, a Municipality must:

It takes about ten days to enable SPID.

For more information on SPID, you can read the project FAQs. To request support during the integration process, you can get in touch with the SPID team (through the Slack channel dedicated to the project or through this forum).

4) Provide the Electronic Identity Card (CIE)

Photo: Ministry of the Interior

To date, there are 7,639 Municipalities that give citizens the option of obtaining an electronic identity card (CIE) — almost all of them. Allowing citizens to obtain a CIE is an important step towards digitization because the new document:

  • uses the best security and anti-counterfeiting standards available;
  • can be used as an authentication tool (like a sort of badge) for accessing both physical services (library, transport, stadium…) and online services.

In some of the Municipalities already issuing the new CIE, it can take a long time to receive the card — sometimes as long as weeks or even months. This is often a deterrent to citizens, who end up opting for the paper format. To overcome this issue, a Municipality can:

  • Adopt the new CIE Agenda, a free web app available to all Municipalities, which allows for better management of Identity Card renewal appointments. To start using it, just make a request through the CIE Agenda site or send a request to the Ministry of the Interior at cie.comuni@interno.it. Municipalities currently still using the previous version of the CIE Agenda can use the same credentials to authenticate directly into the new system.
  • Propose a “mixed” system where citizens renewing their card can choose whether to book an appointment online or go directly to the counter in person. So far, this approach has had the best results in optimizing the management of card renewals for both small and large Municipalities.

To learn more about CIE and the new CIE Agenda:


Goodbye Waste

As we have seen, Municipalities often share the same problems and the same solutions. This also applies to the technological infrastructure Municipalities use to deliver digital services: from software that manages internal services like press reviews or employee email, to the platforms offering services to citizens like the portal for managing nursery school registration.

In these cases, the needs of Municipalities are similar or identical. However, each administration tends to acquire or develop software independently, thereby “reinventing the wheel every time” and generating an enormous waste of resources.

5) Use open software

The Digital Administration Code (Articles 68 and 69 - available in Italian) requires that all Municipalities (and other Public Administrations):

  • make all commissioned (or modified) software available in open source;
  • carry out a comparative evaluation before acquiring new software, to ensure that a similar product is not already available, whether released by another Public Administration or published with an open source license.

Before commissioning a new software solution, consult the software catalog on the Developers Italia website. Here you will find a list of solutions available on open source (to be adopted as is or customized to user needs), accompanied by descriptions, screenshots and direct links to the source code.

Furthermore, Municipalities must register all owned software and publish it in open source. This can be done in just a few quick steps, as described on the Developers Italia website, whose team is available to assist with the process (click here to make contact). By following these steps, the software becomes available for use by other administrations, further contributing to a virtuous circle.

To learn more:

6) Use shared infrastructures and cloud services

There are about 11,000 data centers operating in Italy today. Data centers (also known as Data Processing Centers — DPCs) are IT structures that serve over 22,000 Public Administrations. Currently, Municipalities manage their own servers and services internally.

This situation implies significant labor and costs for the Municipality:

  • for the placement and maintenance of servers;
  • for the maintenance and updates of the software managing these services.

When faced with these costs, administrations often find themselves having to deal with obsolete and insecure servers, or unreliable or outdated software.

In many cases, this problem can be solved by moving services onto shared infrastructures, or by adopting cloud services. For a Municipality, it means identifying services that can be entrusted to external suppliers that are already managing identical services for other Municipalities. These suppliers will be able to manage and maintain their own infrastructure, updating software and guaranteeing its operation in a much more efficient and economical way, thanks to the strong economies of scale that can be obtained by aggregating services on shared hardware.

To start this virtuous process:

To learn more about the advantages of Cloud for Public Administrations:

Or read all the posts related to digital infrastructure on the Digital Team’s blog.


The era of digital services begins

If you’ve completed all the steps so far, your Municipality has already made a quantum leap along the path of digital transformation. Now for the fun stuff!

7) Offer digital services to citizens

Thanks to the integration of SPID, pagoPA and ANPR, you are ready to rethink your services and offer them directly online, through the institution’s own website, for example. This means making it possible for citizens to pay fines or TARI online, asking permission for Ztl online, enroll a child in kindergarten, obtain a certificate, without having to go to the counter every time.

The phases of this process are:

  • map the services provided by your Municipality (what service it is, who delivers it, through which channel, who benefits from it) and understand which ones can be redesigned and proposed online;
  • redesign the services to allow access via computer or smartphone in a simple, quick and functional way.

Simply offering digital services is not enough. Citizens need to know it’s possible (an adequate communication strategy is therefore needed) and that the online services will be easy to use. In the next section we will explain how to redesign services in the digital world so as to make them simple and accessible for citizens.

Training activities might also be useful to help citizens use digital services: some virtuous Municipalities have experimented with “digital civil service” systems, entrusting volunteers (civil service, school-work alternation programs, etc.) to go, tablet in hand, to the Citizen’s counter to show the people in line how they can enjoy the same services in just a few clicks from the comfort of home.

Other administrations have used forms of incentive: taking advantage of the savings garnered with digital systems to offer citizens using online services concessions, like lower administrative fees or tax breaks.

8) Use the design guidelines to standardize your digital services

Digital services work when they meet people’s actual needs in a simple, quick and intuitive way. This applies to the information page on a Municipality’s website, as well as to a more complex service (e.g. booking appointments online, filling out a form to register for a service).

To offer functional and effective digital services:

  • use the Designers Italia ready-to-use kits (available in Italian), which allow you to research users’ needs, design and plan digital services, test them and manage them effectively;
  • refer to the design guidelines (available in Italian) to design services based on the best practices available;
  • take inspiration from the experiences of other Municipalities, gathered on the Designers Italia blog (available in Italian).

For your Municipality’s website, you can also use a ready-to-use prototype made by Designers Italia (available in Italian), based on the kits, guidelines and best local experiences.

You can also exchange ideas on the design of Municipal digital services on the Designers Italia forum.

To learn more about the Designers Italia kits:

9) Get ready to join IO, the public services app

Are your digital services functional and ready to use? Then you are ready to take your services to IO, the public services app.

IO is a unique channel available to all Public Administrations created to convey PA services and reach citizens directly on their smartphones through an intuitive and easy to use app. Thanks to IO, a real paradigm shift has taken place in the relationship between citizens and the Public Administration:

  • you can reach citizens on their smartphone with communications, notifications, payment requests, reminders and other services: all you need to know is the tax code;
  • you can obtain important savings related to the management of notifications;
  • you can allow citizens to complete payments quickly and easily, directly from their smartphone.

The IO app will be available in stores in the second half of 2019, for installation on iOS and Android devices. During this phase, all Municipalities and institutions will be able to use an online system to link their services to the project.

To learn how to experiment with IO project services right away, read this guide.

To learn more about the IO project:

Or visit the site: io.italia.it/en.

10) Publish your data

Transparency is an obligation for any Public Administration. This duty corresponds to the right of citizens to access information, legal proceedings, documents and public data. One of digital’s advantages is that it makes this right real.

We want to use this last point (which could also be the first one!) to make some recommendations regarding transparency:

To learn more about Docs Italia:

  • Make open data available to citizens. The public data managed by a Municipality (balance sheets, cartography, public transport timetables, city council activities, tourist event schedules, etc.) are assets that can and must be made available to citizens (Articles 50 and 52 of the Digital Administration Code - available in Italian), to companies and all the subjects in its territory. To clarify the issue, you can map the open data managed by a Municipality and identify the most suitable solutions for making them available to citizens in a simple, clear and easily accessible way. Read the guidelines for the publication of open data and consult the forum (available in Italian).

To learn more about open data:


The Rules of digital transformation

Digital services must be managed correctly. When a Municipality “goes digital”, activities that previously didn’t need monitoring may now need to be supervised:

  • find staff with adequate skills for managing infrastructure and online services. The Municipality will have to rely on a team of technicians and a digital transformation manager (as per article 17 of the CAD - available in Italian));
  • guarantee information security by following the minimum security measures (available in Italian) and offering personnel training courses on the minimum standards of “computer hygiene”;
  • control the way in which personal data is processed so as to comply with the European Data Protection Regulation (GDPR). Among the various actions to be taken, you will need to appoint a Data Protection Officer (DPO), who will handle all aspects of privacy for your institution.

It’s not always easy to find people with the right skills for managing these aspects, either on the market or within the Public Administration. To better manage digital transformation, smaller Municipalities may want to consider sharing personnel with other local administrations (and split the cost of each activity).

A radical transformation which, as we’ve seen in these ten points, not only allows Municipalities to save on costs, but significantly improves the efficiency and security of services, making administrations both independent and aware of the risks and great opportunities of the digital age.


Team per la Trasformazione Digitale

Blog del Team per la Trasformazione Digitale - Presidenza del Consiglio dei Ministri

Luca Attias

Written by

Commissario Straordinario per l’attuazione dell’Agenda Digitale – Team per la Trasformazione Digitale

Team per la Trasformazione Digitale

Blog del Team per la Trasformazione Digitale - Presidenza del Consiglio dei Ministri

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