We The Italians | Italian report: Living and evaluating digital life. 2nd Report on the value of connectivity in Italy

Italian report: Living and evaluating digital life. 2nd Report on the value of connectivity in Italy

Italian report: Living and evaluating digital life. 2nd Report on the value of connectivity in Italy

  • WTI Magazine #153 Jul 24, 2022
  • 198

What does digital life concretely consist of as experienced by Italian citizens? What are their expectations and evaluations? These are the questions at the heart of the second Windtre-Censis Report, which, starting from the occurred transition to digital life, verifies whether and to what extent in areas of life significant Italians benefit from digital opportunities.

It is a unique reflection on the variety of concrete experiences of the digital life, which also makes it possible to assess whether the right to connection, as a further right of citizenship, at present is little more than a wish or a concrete fact.

Three areas covered: 1) Italians' relationship with the web matured in this year's digital life, with a focus on the types of connections, the expectations toward tlc services and operators, the meaning attributed to 5G technology and the need for cybersecurity. 2) Subjective approaches to cultural and entertainment content usable through web platforms, with a focus particular to Italians' views on the effects they are having on society. 3) Italian citizens' relationship with digital PA and its services, as a verification of citizens' actual fruitions and judgments.

The re/discovery of homes as offices, classrooms, and remote relationship places does not disappear as the pandemic eases: that is why Italians are very attentive to the quality of home technology equipment, starting with fixed lines. At the same time, they expect from providers that connections have basic power and reliability requirements so as to meet the multiplicity of new needs of household members. In order to have a basic technological endowment that meets these requirements, Italians, despite the fact that it is a phase of heavy pressure on family budgets, are ready to invest a few extra euros.

After all, there is a strong belief that the quality of individual lives will also be increasingly determined by the quality of connections, devices and digital skills. This is also why Italians resort to a combinatorial logic, that is, they opt for a plurality of connection modes and devices, thus building a kind of self-protection of the right to connect.

Boosting fixed lines and having multiple types of connections: this is the very concrete way in which Italians are securing their right to connection, which they now consider inalienable, at this historical stage.

New fact is that the positive perception of the value and importance of digital life is accompanied by growing fears about cyber risks and attacks and, therefore, by the demand for cyber protections and safeguards.

Living digitally even very intimate spheres, managing one's savings, making payments, communicating about even very confidential matters to the public administration, doctor or bank are now daily actions for which Italians demand absolute security.

If this is not the case, there is a clear risk of a rejection of digital and a demand for more traditional, perhaps physical, channels into which to channel sensitive information about which absolute privacy is desired. Cybersecurity is the new frontier of exercising the right to connect, and the latter for Italians must include the certainty of privacy and protection from unwanted intrusions and threats.

The centrality of cybersecurity is all the more urgent as Italians' appreciation for the digital life grows: for example, appreciation for access to and personalization of the extensive cultural and entertainment content available on digital platforms is very high.

In fact, Italians are convinced that the proliferation of digitized content emancipated from traditional material media and the possibility of using it according to individual preferences and desires responds to the widespread desire in our society for individual freedom and recognition of one's own singularity, but is also an extraordinary engine for containing social, generational and inter-cultural disparities and rifts between national cultures and subcultures.

Digital platforms, by multiplying content and facilitating access, support individual empowerment and have a centripetal social effect, in antithesis to the widening inequalities of our time.

Italians' positive assessment of the digital democratization of content is not invalidated by fears related to the excessive oligopolistic power of platforms or to the degradation of the quality of offerings. Books, films, TV series, songs, music, and training courses are just some of the content that, thanks to digital platforms, is available everywhere, to anyone, with great ease: to all this Italians attribute an extraordinary opportunity value for people and society.

Of course Italians want guarantees about the privacy of their data if and when they are transferred to platform operators, however to date this does not invalidate their very positive opinion of the social dissemination of cultural and entertainment content through digital, convinced that it improves the quality of life for everyone.

In reviewing the degree to which opportunities related to the right to connect are being exercised socially, the relationship with the digital public administration and its services is important. Indeed, for some time now, the public administration has been engaged in a colossal digital transition effort, from which we also expect a positive change in citizens' more general social evaluation of it.

To date, the operation has been only partially successful, because the shares of citizens who are familiar with and use the various digital services of the public administration still remain not particularly high.

In general, the judgment of those who predominantly use digital public administration is not much better than that of users of offline, physical services: that is why the risk of colossal social disillusionment with respect to the function and purpose of digital public administration is real.

The poor functioning of public administration is attributed by Italians to excessive standardization, regulation, bureaucracy and the presence of unmotivated staff, causes on which digital can do little in itself.

However, if digital public administration is not able with a certain celerity to make the specific added value it is able to generate socially perceptible, the enthusiasts of digital public administration will still be a minority for a long time, while the majority of Italians will remain entangled in old resistance and new fears, at the same time as the demand to still ensure physical access to public administration with related offices, counters and operators may grow further.

The speed, simplicity and reliability of some digital services is, for now, a sign that digital can make the Italian public administration more adequate to the needs of citizens and businesses, but a change of pace is now urgent.