In 2016, citizens’ digital transformation process in Italy underwent a significant acceleration, thanks – above all – to the activity of the Digital Transformation Team of the Prime Minister. We were already used to using technological devices to meet our daily needs, with the help of applications from large tech multinationals, from checking the bank account to renting a holiday apartment. It cannot be said that the same simplicity of use could be found with public services. The team’s bet was therefore to bring the experience of using the Public Administration online as close as possible to those private services widely used by the public. Among the protagonists of this path is Roberta Tassi, and Italian Tech joined her on the occasion of her speech at the Circolo del Design in Turin.
Roberta Tassi is an expert designer, researcher, lecturer, creator of Service Design Tools, an open collection of tutorials and tools useful for digital design, and founder of Oblo Design. A millennial who has been able to take the best from what contemporaneity has had to offer, then putting it at the service of others.
“We did a lot of research, discussing with the citizens of the digital tools with which to interact with public services – explains Dr. Tassi -. A strong need was expressed for functional applications such as those of hi-tech giants, and greater simplicity was required to understand what new ones were and what they were for tools such as SPID. Now, thanks to the work of the Digital Team, there is greater awareness and satisfaction in the use of the IT tools of the PA ».
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What was the initial digitalization process of the PA?
«The action was consolidated on two main strands: on the one hand, the creation of a design system, therefore, a starting point that all administrations could use to design quality digital services; on the other, that of building enabling platforms, obviously working on already existing assets in many cases, which would bring that standard of quality into the hands of the citizen ».
The design system what is it about?
«It’s like a path of distributed innovation: the design system it has allowed many administrations, local authorities, organizations to overturn their mental model in planning digital services, putting the citizen at the center. We did it starting from a base of good practices, and then from the work on enabling infrastructural platforms, such as SPID, which allowed us to think about more advanced products ».
Products like IO?
«Yes, the IO application is conceived as the single point of access for the citizen to the services of the Public Administration, and it doesn’t look like you’d expect from a PA app. With this tool, always at hand, you want to be able to do anything with public services, with the same pleasure and effectiveness that we also find in other apps that we use in our daily life. When this was still an idea in 2018, we wanted to know what citizens’ opinion was, and what they actually expected: it was immediately well perceived, starting from the name “I”. But, as I said before, at that moment there were also many doubts, skepticism, and little awareness of which digital tools were already available ».
Now that awareness is greater, what do you need to work on?
“In this new scenario of greater maturity, the challenges that open up for designers are a little different: first of all we must be able to manage expectations, thus building trust. As we have seen during the pandemic, with public services such as the “sustainability bonus” where thousands connected at the same time to the system, this must work in the same way, since in addition to the service offered there is the need not to disappoint the user. Beyond that, the other important issue is the ability to understand one’s digital rights: we must be able to dispel doubts and remove elements of confusion, accompanying and educating users. The example of Immuni, in this case is fitting: there was concern in its use due to a lack of perception of security of one’s privacy, which obviously existed but was not understood. Finally, another point that emerged from the research concerns the digital divide, and therefore accessibility: digital citizens can become reference points for those who are more “analog”. We translate this into projects through the construction of digital delegation mechanisms, or temporary accesses for those who help ».
We talked about citizens, but public employees?
“In service design the final user, ie the citizen, and the operators, therefore the PA employees, are on the same level, equal interlocutors. So, how there is an interface for the citizen, there is one for administrations, just as simple and intuitive, which explains how to use the systems and how to integrate and deliver services. And then there was also an accompaniment, yes, but always for both of us ».
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Regarding your experiences abroad, what is the Italian cultural characteristic of your work that has been most appreciated?
“By working with designers from all over the world, I have become more aware of our cultural approach to projects, which is closely linked to ours tradition of design, which unfortunately we value little. We have a naturally critical attitude towards the problems we face, and instead of looking for the solution right away, let’s analyze the problem better, and sometimes we reformulate the design question: this is a quality that we should continue to cultivate ».
And what did he learn and then take with him on his return?
«Certainly the dynamism, the propensity for risk, and the serenity in making mistakes. In short, throw yourself into the news, and try: in Italy I find it very hard to find these characteristics, even for the few support for small and medium-sized enterprises. Returning to Italy, and creating my own design studio, I tried to bring these peculiarities with me ».