I always balk at government news coming from my country, and this one is no exception.
It appears that our minister for tourism is asking Apple to remove an iPhone application called What Country because it would offend the country’s dignity by using stereotypes like pizza, mafia and scooters (see article from Telegraph). She also asked the state attorney to take legal action.
I am Italian, but I do not really feel offended by any of this. Incidentally, the application uses stereotypes for all other countries (for instance hooligans for the UK, while we all know that the government there has taken serious and effective action against them, pretty much like the Italian government has always done against organized crime). I have not heard any minister from any other country protesting with Apple, and I very much hope that this won’t be one of the few cases where anybody outside Italy follows the Italian example.
Actually, I do joke on this stereotype in Gartner. I have created a fictional character, named Guido. He is an obscure alter-ego of mine (but somebody believes it is me) who scares colleagues during the peer review process (“Read my note: this is an offer you can’t refuse”) or to get things done (“on this piece of paper I’ll either have my schedule or your brain”). We have discussed a couple of times about using this character in presentations at one of our conferences: he could either impersonate a security threat or one of those inexplicable barriers to action that we often see in the public sector. The whole idea never materialized as I realized that in order to be credible I would need to carry a toy gun or a violin case, and the airport security implications as I fly to a conference would be unpleasant.
Ironically, the more governments provide open data and encourage the development of applications for all sorts of cool devices, the greater the risk that some will criticize or openly make fun of politicians or entire jurisdictions, and often be very politically incorrect. My take on this is that, unless there is criminal intent or clear defamation or a patent violation of civil rights, politicians should get used to this and learn how to smile and –why not – use this “socially”.
Let’s not forget that one of the most popular iPhone apps a few months ago was iSilvio, which provided pictures and audio excerpts of our prime minister Silvio Berlusconi. I guess that somebody from the opposition may have felt somewhat offended, but I am not aware of anybody who complained to Apple.
Government 2.0 does requires a fair amount of sense of humor and a better understanding of the boundary between freedom of speech and defamation.
Of course, if you feel somebody has gone too far, you can always give Guido a call and he’ll fix it. His way.