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You are here: Home > Citizen Audit > Another step ahead/05 2021-08-19 #Italy #Government #COVID19 #NextGenerationEU

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Published on 2021-08-19 18:00:00 | words: 3766

Yes, another step after the previous four, as we recently got closer to seeing the first funding being involved into the actual delivery of #NextGenerationEU.

And, again, within the series "CitizenAudit".

This article is the fifth of a series:
_01 2021-02-19
_02 2021-04-29
_03 2021-05-11
_04 2021-05-23

Few days ago, it was announced the release of the first 25bln EUR to Italy.

One of the elements considered as structural part of the NextGenerationEU set of initiatives is transparency.

I will not repeat what I already wrote in the previous four articles, e.g. about systemic thinking or the levels of transparency shown by various EU members.

To summarize the level of documentation shared on the European Commission webpage on the "recover and resilience facility":
_some countries (including Italy) initially released just their national plan
_others released initially also documentation about the projects to be funded
_others released such details in a second phase.

As for Italy, as I wrote in the second article of this series, some 2,500 pages about the projects had been eventually released- but not to the public, only to selected parties (including the European Commission).

Curious approach, if you consider that the two key transformations (green and digital) require the contribution of all the parts of society that could provide expertise from the ground.

And, incidentally, it is even more curious, if you consider the over 250 documents presenting contributions presented to the Italian Parliament between October 2020 and March 2021.

Actually, I think that half of transparency is ease of access.

Therefore, released already two datasets on Kaggle and a repository on GitHub, to track evolutions and implementation, starting obviously (at least for myself) what should have been the first step: not the "Stati Generali" in summer 2020, but the collection and presentation of proposals to the Italian Parliament that started in October 2020 and continued until March 2021.

These are the resources that I created to support my own recent and forthcoming publications, but, in the spirit of DataDemocracy, shared online:
_PNRR NextGenerationEU in Italy - presentations (latest update five months ago)
_EU recovery and resilience facility current status (latest update a month ago)
_PNRR NextGenerationEU in Italy - pres. details (latest update 17 hours ago)
_#NextGenerationEU - Italy - Timeline

On the latter, thanks to pianonazionale.com for his comments.

Anyway, it is an ongoing project, and I will add material.

And I too found unusual to have to search around to found documents that apparently were shared with Brussels, but distributed last minute or even selectively in Italy, including with the Italian Parliament.

For the latest update, few hours ago, added along with the text of the proposals from Italian civil society, also data extracted from the working paper released on 2021-06-22 from the European Commission staff (you can see all the documents released here, while I stored a copy of the document here, for future reference).

As you can understand, therefore this short article within the part of the CitizenAudit section focused on the PNRR is just about this theme: transparency.

It was quite unusual to eventually find those 2,500 pages (and a version of the PNRR extending beyond the 269 pages) not on the European Commission page, but on archive.org, posted from... Texas.

_20210427 a PNRR version of 337 pages
_20210508 attachments 2500 pages

To compare, first the "tag cloud" from the 269 pages version:

and then, frrom the 337 pages version:

We are still in the phase where preparation is ongoing, and, also if the context is different, it is interesting to suggest reading a 2009 book on the first 100 days of the first FDR administration, from 1933.

Long quote from a book about the first Presidential term of FDR, "Nothing to Fear / FDR's inner circle and the hundred days that created modern America", by Adam Cohen, 2009

When Roosevelt took office on March 4, 1933, he charted a new course. That course was determined during the first one hundred days of his presidency. The Hundred Days, as the press would later name the period, began with a remarkable inaugural address. After assuring a despairing nation that "the only thing we have to fear is fear itself," Roosevelt promised "action, and action now." More than his words and his confident manner, it was the flurry of activity he ushered in that raised the nation's spirits. During the Hundred Days, Roosevelt offered up what the historian Arthur M. Schlesinger, Jr., called "a presidential barrage of ideas and programs unlike anything known to American history." Roosevelt shepherded fifteen major laws through Congress, prodded along by two fireside chats and thirty press conferences. He created an alphabet soup of new agencies - the AAA, the CCC, the FERA, the NRA - to administer the laws and bring relief to farmers, industry, and the unemployed. In an editorial entitled "Laws for Everything," The New York Times declared Roosevelt's dizzying pace of accomplishments to be "little short of a marvel."

The Hundred Days swept the old order away in quick and dramatic fashion. On inauguration day, the nation's banks were teetering on the brink of collapse. Thousands had already failed, and all forty-eight states had declared bank holidays, preventing more banks from failing by cutting depositors off from their money. Hoover had stood idly by, refusing to intervene. Roosevelt took a more active stance. Within days he had declared a national bank holiday and signed the Emergency Banking Act, which immediately put the banking system on a firmer footing. He then delivered a remarkable fireside chat that restored the public's faith in the banking system. When the banks reopened, the public rushed to put money in, not take it out, and the crisis was over. Before the Hundred Days had ended, he signed a second law, the Banking Act of 1933, which made deeper reforms.

When Roosevelt was sworn in, farmers were entering the second decade of their own, localized depression. At the end of World War I, commodity prices had plunged so low that for many farmers it no longer paid to plant. Farms were being lost to foreclosure at an alarming rate, and farm families were being thrown off the land. Hoover had made a few halting efforts to address the problem, but his ideology had prevented him from taking more effective steps. Within weeks, Roosevelt had signed a revolutionary new law, the Agricultural Adjustment Act, which increased farm prices by paying farmers not to grow crops. He combated farm foreclosures through the Farm Credit Administration, a new federal farm mortgage program.

Roosevelt also brought help to the urban unemployed. Hoover, who believed relief eroded character and encouraged idleness, thought the poor should be cared for by private charity or, as a last resort, by local government. Roosevelt created the nation's first federal relief program, the Federal Emergency Relief Administration, which supported the unemployed with federal money dispensed according to federal standards. He established two major public works programs. The Civilian Conservation Corps sent 250,000 jobless young people out into nature to plant trees and reclaim the land. The National Industrial Recovery Act allocated $3.3 billion for a wider range of projects. Roosevelt also created an agency, the National Recovery Administration, charged with helping industry get back on its feet. In exchange for that help, he got companies to agree to minimum wages and maximum hours, a legal right for unions to organize, and a ban on child labor.

There was more. Roosevelt passed a pathbreaking law, the Truth in Securities Act, which for the first time regulated issues of stock. He created the Tennessee Valley Authority, a new form of regional entity, to provide low-cost public power and improve conditions in one of the poorest regions in the country. Roosevelt took America off the gold standard, allowing him to battle deflation, which was causing hardship for anyone with a mortgage, especially farmers.

No presidential administration had ever done so much so fast. "The nation was bewildered, thrilled, happy with hope," the journalist Ernest K. Lindley wrote. "The new President had delivered with a vengeance the 'action' which he promised on March 4."


Roosevelt was such a compelling leader that history has generally laid credit for all the accomplishements of the Hundred Days at his feet, and they are often thought of as his carefully planned response to the crisis.

The truth is more complicated, and more chaotic. Roosevelt had woved in a campaign speech at Atlanta's Oglethorpe University to respon to the depression with "bold, persistent experimentation." It was "common sense," he insisted, "to take a method and try it> if it fails, admit it frankly and try another. But above all, try something"
(the part in bold is my emphasis).

What is the PNRR (and, of course the overall NextGenerationEU) about?

Recovery (and so it was in 1933, in the inaugural address), resilience (ditto), and involving all the parts of society that could contribute.

Interesting in the book the story of how the famous phrase "have fear... of fear itself" entered the inaugural address.

The key point back then as now is the speed of action, of structured action.

The need is to both solve the issues generated by COVID, including direct and indirect economic and social impacts (also potential long-term health consequences for those who were infected), and adopt a model that is more partecipative (and faster) than the "compliance" approach we got used to since the 1950s, to be better prepared against future events.

Retaining a partecipative element within the traditional "compliance" model implies a long series of steps to result in something compliance is required with.

I already shared how, during the COVID crisis, some companies discovered that they need to "tinker" with existing contracts e.g. with their supply chain, to have access to information across the whole lifecycle, from raw material to components, to be able to proactively adapt responses or identify their impact.

Both the green and the digital transformation in reality are based on a continuous availability of data- and this requires all the parties involved (those producing and those consuming data) to be parties within a shared approach to data.

Anything less, and some parties might refrain from sharing data, withholding information that could affect the quality of decisions in other parties.

The GDPR is just covering one of the elements of a data-centric society, as, along with privacy, also confidentiality (including business confidentiality) should be safeguarded, to share the benefits of a data-centric society.

And this brings back the first point: collecting feed-back from society, and then sharing selectively the ensuing choices is an old fashioned approach that is at best going to generate the illusion that, moving forward, the old tribal approach is still feasible (i.e. finding alliances to push projects not based on "common" value at the national level, but just for those within the alliance).

It could be feasible, but with at least a couple of consequences:
_in a tribal decision making, each selective choice generates mutual future obligations
_such future obligations might be counterproductive for the general interest if the future context were to change.

To keep track of what was proposed, released another dataset, this time containing not just the list of documents provided by civil society as contributions to the design of the Italian PNRR, but also the content.

While in the past released (e.g. ECB speeches etc. 1997 to 20210613) a dataset showing keyword frequencies for each element (I publish a searchable update each Sunday evening) I , this time decided to provide the text extracted from each document, to enable different types of analysis (e.g. NLP- natural language processing, to compare the "weight" of concepts or "sentiment", not just the frequency of words).

Stay tuned, transparency in public resources administration is something that eluded also Roosevely- but those were other times.

Nowadays, "experimentation" is being again launched as "the new thing", but is really still what Deming proposed (walking on the shoulders of philosophers going back at least to Aristotle), continuously improving by continuously observing and adjusting.

Only, today technology, as shown for the COVID19 vaccines (already in the 1990s the use of RNA was touted even in movies as a potential way to accelerate their development), can accelerate.

It is not about computers etc: it is about communication, and being able to listen to what those with "feet on the ground" can give as feed-back, i.e. integrating within decision-making processes continuously the feed-back of civil society based on expertise and experience, not just on "wishlists".

And this, of course, requires stepping forward into another level of transparency.

I know that many, both in the public sector and private sector, as I heard often in workshops, seminars, conference, etc in Italy since 2012 (when I started again working and living full-time in Italy), already complain about "too much transparency".

But I have to agree to disagree.

If you really want to benefit from green and digital transformation, you have to admit that both are based on massive and continuous amount of data, data that have a meaning not to some centralized "panopticon", but to multiple (and often, obviously, competing and with diverging interests) parties.

At the same time, in Italy, with our current obsession (since the start of the Second Republic) replacing politics based on long-term aims ("ideology") with politics based on presence, we risk continuously a mob rule.

So, we had always to balance transparency and openness with the risk of doing what some advocate, e.g. by inviting a virologist and a no-vax as if the basis of their proposals where the same.

In Italy, we are always pretending to be open to civil society, as if we were to do an encore of Mao's "Hundred Flowers Campaign", but always ready to ignore what diverges from our own biases.

NextGenerationEU is about something more than a distribution of resources, it is a social engineering plan to seed the change of our model of society, and interactions within society.

As a kid, I remember tinkering with equipment, material, clothing to adapt to some ideas I had- and even with videogames in the early 1980s I did not care about the score, but about the story: so, even altering the way the software behaved was a way to play the game and see where the story was heading to.

The first smartphones and "smart devices" were locked into whatever the supplier's engineers and marketing or product management people had decided consumer wanted.

Eventually, instead, options were added on your smartphone (at least, I used it once in a while on Android smartphone and devices) so that you can be more a contributor to the ecosystem, than a passive "one-dimensional person" a.k.a. passive consumer.

In society, green and digital transformations will need this continuous feed-back to evolve and adjust, if we want "sustainability" to mean "for many" and not for just a slice of those living in OECD countries.

It will not be a simple journey, but having those six missions within the PNRR:
_Mission1: digitalisation, innovation, competitiveness, culture and tourism
_Mission2: green revolution and ecological transition
_Mission3: infrastructures for sustainable mobility
_Mission4: education and research
_Mission5: inclusion and cohesion
_Mission6: health,

then converted into 16 components within the Italian PNRR (see table 3.1 within the working paper):
_M1C1: Digitalisation, innovation and security in the PA EUR mln 9722
_M1C2: Digitalisation, innovation and competitiveness in the production system EUR mln 23895
_M1C3: Tourism and culture 4.0 EUR mln 6675
_M2C1: Circular economy and sustainable agriculture EUR mln 5265
_M2C2: Renewable energy, hydrogen, grid and sustainable mobility EUR mln 23778
_M2C3: Energy efficiency and renovation of buildings EUR mln 15362
_M2C4: Protection of land and water resources EUR mln 15054
_M3C1: Investments in the rail network EUR mln 24767
_M3C2: Intermodality and integrated logistics EUR mln 630
_M4C1: Strengthening the provision of education services: from crèches to universities EUR mln 19436
_M4C2: From research to business EUR mln 11440
_M5C1: Employment policies EUR mln 6660
_M5C2: Social infrastructure, households, the community and the third sector EUR mln 11216
_M5C3: Special interventions for territorial cohesion EUR mln 1975
_M6C1: Local networks, facilities and telemedicine for local health care EUR mln 7000
_M6C2: Innovation, research and digitalisation of the national health service EUR mln 8626

already gives a framework of reference.

A "technical" note from somebody who did business number crunching since the 1980s, and worked also on auditing and negotiating contracts as well on financial controlling activities...

...those who worked with me (including start-ups I helped to prepare business and marketing plans) know how infuriating I find when the numbers do not add up.

Not because I just like them to add up, it is because, if you have activities involving multiple parties across time, you need to mark progress.

Actually, as I taught in the early 1990s to project managers and managers on planning, to mark speed, velocity, acceleration- i.e. to see how resources were allocated, spent, and if the speed was correct and sustainable.

But if you say that 5 plus 5 makes around 10, then those along the line can say that e.g. 2 is between 1.7 and 2.2, and, when you add up everything, maybe you can 12, not 10.

Yes, the total under table 3.1 does not match the sum of the lines, and the detailed list of measures/submeasures (i.e. projects and initiatives) within the annex that supposedly is "tagging" each project to those 16 components is few dozen billion EUR short.

Anyway, in our current climate, there was a degree of flexibility, so there is still time to actually do something "traceable", i.e. that citizens (including corporate citizens) can monitor as progress through time.

To further help community, as during August decided to follow some training courses that I assumed could be useful for my current mission, added also one on using Jira to manage a product roadmap, and track it through time.

I could share my own, and I will eventually do it, as soon as somebody will add dates and fix budgets.

And now, something that is really related to my experiments in using open source or free online tools into law/policy making, e.g. as I did in the past with GitHub for some government decrees, Law&Versioning in #Italy - an experiment in #swarm #democracy (see examples in Decreto rilancio cloud and Legge 77/2020 cloud).

For the time being, I would like to share, for those of you who are used to "track" projects, initiatives, budgets, new product development with Jira few files, to be used in this order:
_list of Epics (basically, each component is, in my view, an "Epic"
_list of issues associated to each Epic (i.e. the projects within the annex)

To make life simpler, I created also the configuration files to use for the batch import within Jira:
_configuration for Epics import
_configuration for Issues import

I adopted the following conventions:
1_ the "summary" is the code and name (shortened those too long)
2_ each "description" contains just a number (Epics: from table 3.1, Issues: from annex)
3_ the labels contain the Mission reference and, for the Issues, if they are associated with Climate or Digital, under which reference, and to which percentage (again, from annex).

You have just to create on Jira a project (I suggest "Scrum" and "company managed", to allow future connections with other projects), and you will have a long list of issues that then it is up to you to e.g. use to collect commentary on each project, each component, etc.

The reason I used the labels that way was to avoid creating additional fields, and allow to use both the basic and advanced search facilities (e.g. all the projects in Mission6, or all the projects that use a specific comma for the climate part, or that are for climate at 100% vs. 40%, ditto for digital).

For now, stay tuned, it will be a long journey.