Editor : Martin Simamora, S.IP |Martin Simamora Press

Rabu, 12 Oktober 2011

Still a Long Way for Technology to Make a Difference in Government

Sometimes personal experience is a powerful source of data for a government-related blog. Yesterday I was one of the millions of Italians who tried to fill their census forms online rather than on paper. I would have thought that the statistical office would plan for an easily foreseeable spike in demand or at least advise people that there may be availability issues and suggest how how to distribute requests across a more manageable period of time. Not at all, and all I and hundreds of thousands of Italians got was the “service unavailable” window, and apologies through the press.

Today I decided to file the request for disability benefits on behalf of my mother. This was supposed to be the last step of a long process:

  1. Going to the GP to have a certificate indicating the type of disability
  2. Initiating the procedure, through a not-for-profit intermediary (no way to submit the request unless electronically, so intermediaries offer that servicem since people who ask for disability benefits are unlikely to be online users)
  3. Being called two months later for a medical exam (fixed date, fixed time, no way to reschedule in case of need)
  4. Getting the results four months later, which is when one can actually file the request

    At this stage I had to fill a form, go to my mom’s bank to get an official stamp and signature (although disability benefits would be paid on the exact same bank account where she received her pension), and then – with all necessary forms and copies – I showed up at the local branch of the Italian social security agency.

    To my surprise I was told that they could take in my request, but would not bear any responsibility for its successful transfer to their local headquarters (10 km far), nor would they give me a receipt.

    My best options in order to be totally sure were to either go to their headquarters or to use (again) a not-for-profit intermediary. I queued for 90 minutes at the intermediary organization to then meet a friendly and very helpful guy who processed the request (electronically) in about 60 seconds, showing that my mother’s case was already in the system.

    The irony is that the social security agency is known to be one of the best users of IT in the Italian government, with a suit of online services that requires – however – userid and password that a 80 year-old woman is unlikely to even think about asking. In this process, the social security agency sent a letter informing us that the medical commission had authorized disability benefits for a person (my mom) they know everything about, as she already receives a monthly pension from them.

    Why does one need to place a request again? As governments strive to be more effective and efficient, they aim at exchanging information across different departments and agencies. But, here, an agency that is deemed to be top-class in using technology, seems to be unable to even talk to itself.


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