The platform for the Public Administration’s digital payments becomes a company: a new asset for the country’s digital and economic development

Giuseppe Virgone
Sep 2 · 7 min read

by Giuseppe Virgone and Luca Attias

Questo articolo è disponibile anche in italiano

Today we announce the achievement of a goal after three years of work, a goal that also represents the beginning of a new undertaking: pagoPA, the Public Administration’s platform for digital payments, has become a State Owned Enterprise (SOE), operating under the supervision of the Presidency of the Council of Ministers. The new company is ready to serve as a strategic asset for our country, helping us achieve the universal adoption of digital payments, boost the digitization of public services and further the country’s economic development.

pagoPA will allow citizens to make payments to the Italian Public Administration everywhere in the country; through a simple app, citizens should be able to access public services, make transactions with their own municipality quickly, pay taxes in just one click.
pagoPA applies the private-sector best practices in the public sector and introduces a complete change of vision as digital payments are no longer considered a problem to deal with or a cost for the State but an opportunity for the entire public system. For this very reason, the newborn company will also manage the development of the Project IO: an app that will allow all citizens to use national and local public services through their own smartphone in an easy, innovative and secure way.

Giuseppe Conte, Prime Minister of Italy

This post tells the story of how we got this far: from the strategic choices made during the first days of the Digital Transformation Team, when Diego Piacentini was Commissioner, to the work of his successor, Luca Attias, who has committed himself to actualizing the indications passed on by Piacentini in the White Paper, drawn up at the end of his mandate. This is a virtuous story that shows how our country can work with vision and unity of purpose on a long-term project that has benefits for citizens, Public Administrations and the entire economic fabric of our country.

The password is continuity

When Diego Piacentini, the Special Commissioner for the implementation of the Digital Agenda, started the Digital Transformation Team in 2016, his first step was to bring together a handful of experts. His call was addressed to professionals living in Italy and those living abroad who wanted to return, for whom only an ambitious and visionary project could attract them to the complex world of Public Administration. This first step marked the birth of a new paradigm: bringing together highly-skilled people to tackle a complex problem i.e. the digitalization of public services in Italy.

The second step was equally groundbreaking: Diego Piacentini asked the experts to work in continuity with the best projects already existing in the jagged panorama of Italian digital public services.

The Public Administration often lacks the ability to do things without having to reinvent the wheel every day.

The choice was obvious: instead of starting over, we would be entering into the problems’ merits, starting with the best existing solutions to create the foundation of the country’s operating system.

Before, we frequently made the mistake of always starting from scratch. Maybe because it was the easiest choice: a way of setting less ambitious goals with ready alibis in case of failure.

The strategy for digital payments was also based on this principle of continuity, originating from conditions upon which the pagoPA platform had already been imagined:

  • give all Public Administrations and Payment Service Providers the ability to link to a single platform, thereby offering citizens the possibility of choosing between all available payment systems when making any type of payment to the public sector;
  • allow the State to monitor all transactions related to the public sector so as to have access to a real and immediate view of its revenues.

Three years of work to release pagoPA

After identifying the strengths of pagoPA, we immediately asked ourselves: what isn’t working? Why doesn’t the platform take off?

This project, more than any other project we’ve carried out so far, required us to draw from a variety of skills: from the technological world, the world of public services and the world of digital payments.

Recently, we reviewed the details and identified the factors that allowed us to grow the platform exponentially and become established in the digital payments market.

These results were made possible by:

  • a continuous and fruitful collaboration with Banca d’Italia, to share pagoPA’s strategic vision;
  • technical work aimed at making the platform functional, simple and intuitive to use, primarily by improving the user experience;
  • a continuous dialogue with Public Administrations, to explain the advantages of pagoPA and support its diffusion;
  • a renewed dialogue with Payment Service Providers, to whom we explained the real opportunities afforded by this platform for growing the digital payments market.

The work has been lengthy and complex and has been carried out by the Digital Team with the support of the entire ecosystem: Banca d’Italia, the different governments of the various ruling political parties, Parliament, collaborators from the Agency for Digital Italy, Agid (to whom we owe a particular thanks for their dedication to the success of this project). Since the appointment of the new Commissioner, we have wanted to secure this work by creating the conditions for pagoPA’s continued growth even after the end of our mandate.

This is one of the first instances in Italy where decisions on certain issues are being made in continuity. This is the direction indicated by Piacentini’s White Paper: place every Digital Team project where it can be most useful for the country, even after the end of the team’s mandate.

The birth of a skill center

There are several reasons why we have identified a State owned enterprise as the ideal choice for continuing the growth of digital payments made to the Public Administration:

  • A company must comply with market rules. This means that it must be autonomous and economically sustainable, must be able to work efficiently and competitively and, above all, attract talent, evaluating people only on the basis of their actual skills.
  • The payment market is constantly evolving, often quickly and unexpectedly. To survive, pagoPA must be able to move dynamically, with different mechanisms than those of a Public Administration.
  • To grow and galvanize the world of digital payments, pagoPA must act with authority, which can only be guaranteed by a company with focus and specific expertise in this particular sector.

From now on, the company’s new goal is to develop the best platform, using the best technical and strategic tools and the best talent to make it even stronger on the market. Because the company is owned by the State, its aim is to stimulate and grow the digital payments market rather than compete with other companies. This creates new opportunities for all Payment Service Providers (PSP). In fact, after the European legislation PSD2, pagoPA allows any Public Administration to use any Payment Service Provider. The choice of PSP is left to the citizen, which creates opportunities for the entire sector.

A paradigm shift

We are sharing the story of pagoPA not just to celebrate this achievement but also because we believe it represents a paradigm shift that can serve as both an example and as motivation for the entire ecosystem of Italian public services.

For the first time during the long journey that led to the creation of the pagoPA company, the State has:

  • identified digital payments as a subject capable of influencing the growth of the entire economic fabric;
  • decided to approach the situation by creating a skill center, which has dedicated itself with continuity and authority to the re-engineering of processes to make services simple and effective.

In other words, the public sector has chosen to turn to a highly skilled group of people to put the following principle into practice: if digital services work well, citizens will use them. Digitizing public services involves placing citizens at the center of decision-making and proposing efficient services that are skillfully developed on the basis of citizen needs.

This is why the new company has also taken charge of creating the Digital National Data Platform (PDND, formerly DAF), as envisaged by the Three-Year Plan, and the development of the IO project, the app for Italian public services, an advanced and innovative project pioneered by the Digital Transformation Team and based on precisely this paradigm shift:

  • the State must reach citizens, not the other way around. This can be achieved thanks to simple and intuitive services;
  • in a similar vein, the State must make the complexity of the administrative machine as transparent as possible by focusing on satisfying citizen needs and no longer demanding complex and cumbersome obligations.

This is the philosophy on which we want to base the work that awaits us in the coming years of developing payments and digital public services in Italy, even beyond the Digital Team’s mandate.

Team per la Trasformazione Digitale

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

Giuseppe Virgone

Written by

Digital Payment — @ -Entrpreneurs, Strategic Payment, Husband and father

Team per la Trasformazione Digitale

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

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