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Italy Shows the Wrong Way to Transparency

by Andrea Di Maio  |  February 21, 2012  |  9 Comments

A few days ago it was announced that on February 21st Italian minister would publish their incomes as part of what is called “Operation Transparency”. This actually happened but:

  1. Not all ministers complied (including the prime minister)
  2. The information is hidden as a link on the left hand side of the page with each minister’s biography
  3. The government web site stopped for a while due to too many requests.

Whereas nobody can criticize the purpose of such an initiative, its imperfect implementation offers points for reflection to all those who are planning for open government.

Once it is decided that information is going to be released transparently for public consumption, it should be timely, complete, accurate and easy to find. The Italian government failed on almost all accounts.

Category: open-government-data  

Tags: italy  open-government  

Andrea Di Maio
Managing VP
15 years at Gartner
28 years IT industry

Andrea Di Maio is a managing vice president for public sector in Gartner Research, covering government and education. His personal research focus is on digital government strategies strategies, Web 2.0, open government, cloud computing, the business value of IT, smart cities, and the impact of technology on the future of government Read Full Bio

Thoughts on Italy Shows the Wrong Way to Transparency

  1. Marco says:

    From a “VP Distinguished Analyst” I would have expected better than this unless you are fishing for pageviews:

    1) Monti announced he wants to publish his bank statements as well as his income statement. Do you rally believe the fact that they are not up yet is so relevant? besides, “Tuesday 21st February isn’t finished yet”

    2) the news is all over Italian media and no one has any problem in finding the links. In fact it’s the reason for your third point…

    3) … do you really think they should invest hundreds of thousands of Euro to make sure the website can cope with a traffic spike that will last a few hours and never occur again? of course not, a slow website and, at times, a few timeouts for a few hours are more than acceptable to anyone who knows what he is talking about (IT people)

  2. Thank you Marco for your comment. I do not have any way to appeal to your title, in order to asses whether your comments match it or not, but here are my responses.

    1) Publishing such information with a piecemeal approach does not make much sense. It would have been far better to get all information and publish in one shot. Please note that the format used by different ministers is also different, so we are very far from any sort of “open data” approach (besides the files being in PDF format),

    2) I would urge you to look more carefully at those news (which I did). None that I found contained direct links, and a few pointed to In fact, as the information is published on each minister’s page, they should have provided multiple links, which they didn’t.

    3) Had they published that information in a single table (or a coherent set of tables), they could have put it on a public cloud rather than on their own servers.

    So I maintain that they have missed the mark, and so have those IT people – whoever they are – who advised them. As this government is willing to take “open government” seriously, they’d better do so sooner rather than later.

  3. […] More Here : Italy Shows the Wrong Way to Transparency h126(); Tags: world news Categories: Feeds, UN « U.S. vs. Italy: Roster Predictions […]

  4. Luca says:

    Sorry Andrea but I’m with Marco on this one.

    It’s the 21th Feb and I’ve been on the web site, I can see the link clearly as well as the income statement from Monti (and others too) and for once I congratulate Italy for keeping a promise and keeping it without delays.

    The remaining points you make are a bit irrilevant in my opinion and much of a personal preference. Beside have you ever heard of Agile methodology?

    Keep up the good work

  5. Luca, thanks for your comment. You are right, Monti’s declaration is now on the web site, although it was not yet yesterday evening.
    I agree that they all made the deadline, but they did so in a somewhat devolved way, publishing different forms, at different times, in different pages. Therefore there is not one single link but you have to look at their own pages and look for the link. Nor is data published in a consistent and open format (e.g. XML or even CSV).
    I doubt this has much to do with agility – which I am actually familiar with – and casts doubt about whether whoever is advising them has ever heard of open government.

  6. Marco says:

    The point here is that Monti’s initial commitment was about transparency and not “open data” (as in, easily consumable by computers).

    Would have been better as you say? of course it would have but does it justify your linkbait title “Italy Shows the Wrong Way to Transparency”? of course it does not


  7. Thanks Marco.
    Did I say anywhere that the government did mot comply with an open data commitment?
    Let’s take the commitment about transparency: of course all the information is available but is it easy to find and compare? of course it is not.
    The title reflects accurately my assessment of how this initiative rates against many other transparency initiatives around the world. Further, this same government has been waving its hands about a digital agenda and open data: it is unfortunate that nobody realized there is a link with transparency.
    And also setting transparency aside for a moment, this has been quite naive from a pure communication standpoint: waiting to have all data and compile a single coherent table would have served better both the press (which had to run with different titles as various ministers were releasing their data) and anybody who had an interest in an comprehensive view, which is not available on the site.

  8. Luca says:

    Hi Andrea,

    OK, the Italian government didn’t take into consideration your (and others) needs as an analyst to mine and compare data. You might even have a point about the link between open formats to aid transparency, however for millions of Italians transparency was obtained with that first file access even if in PDF format.

    Question: Does your assessment and rating takes into consideration the current economic & financial situation in Italy?

    The UK government initiative for example didn’t have the same economic and political pressures Monti’s government is under … and in UK open format was outsourced to India … we don’t have such opportunity at present 😉

    Kind regards,

  9. Thanks Luca. Even you forget about an open format, having those tables in a single file OR on a single page at the same time, was it too much to ask? And I can assure you that it would not cost more money, but just a bit more coordination.

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