ScienceBlogs
Home

The Digitalization process in Italy: the impact on Regional Autonomy

1
1
The Digitalization process in Italy: the impact on Regional Autonomy
Digitalization - © Unsplash Daniel Gzz

The profound impact of digitalization, which is reshaping societies, economies, and governance structures worldwide, has also affected the Italian system. This article aims to explore the implications of digitalization in Italy and its intricate relationship with regional autonomy. Specifically, it delves into a rather marginal (but crucial, from a federalist study perspective) aspect of this topic: how legislative competence is distributed between the State and its regions and how the role of regions can contribute to Italy's digital transition, given the interaction of this topic with regional matters.

Legislative Competence and Digital Transformation

Italy vests legislative competence over digital transformation in the State, as dictated by article 117, 2, r) of the Constitution, which gives exclusive jurisdiction to the State over "statistical and informative coordination of state, regional and local government data".1 The centralized approach is rooted in the need for a unified, national strategy to harness the benefits of digitalization while addressing potential challenges. The State, therefore, plays a pivotal role in shaping policies, regulations, and frameworks to guide Italy through the digital era.

The same need for uniformity in meeting the global challenges of digitalization determined the emergence of a leading position for the EU in this matter, which has lately played a prominent role through its laws and plans for digitalization.2

However, the digital transformation landscape is widely transversal and in many of its applications intersects with matters that fall under regional or shared competence. This creates a dynamic whereby the impact of digitalization is not confined to legislative framework set by the state alone. Regional authorities find themselves at the nexus of national directives and local intricacies, having to navigate the delicate balance between adherence to overarching strategies and addressing regional nuances.

The present role of regions: administrators and advisors

In recent years, the role of regions in Italy has predominantly been that of executing plans and laws devised at the national or European Union level. This raises a fundamental question regarding the role regions should play in the digital transition: should they focus on efficiently implementing plans outlined elsewhere, or should they strive for a more active role in shaping the content of national strategies?

Efficient execution of digital transition plans decided at higher levels is crucial for ensuring a smooth and synchronized transformation. Regions can contribute significantly by aligning local priorities with national and EU objectives, leveraging their knowledge of regional intricacies to enhance the effectiveness of implementation. In this case, then, the regions would have a valuable role on the territory of the investment and reform plans on digital transition from the implementation phase. At the same time, they could direct investments and activities in the best way to emphasize the specificities of each region. This is what has been happening lately, at least in general.

An example of this trend can be identified in the PNRR.3 The content of the investment plan was decided between the European Commission and individual states, with essentially no regional input. The goals to be achieved and the distribution of funds to each region were identified at the state level, yet the regions themselves also have a way of coordinating with the state to decide the precise allocation of funds and individual reform efforts on the ground, and finally is the regions that play an important role in their effective implementation.

Simultaneously, there is a way for regions to play a more active role in the decision-making process. By actively participating in the formulation of national normative acts, regions can ensure that the digitalization agenda reflects the diverse needs of different localities. This approach necessitates a collaborative and consultative process that encourages dialogue between the central government and regional entities. The institutional instrument charged with this function is the "Sistema delle conferenze"4 through which the government gathers the views and legal opinions of regional administrations, especially in cases of the laws being drafted affecting matters of regional interest.

The Evolving Role of Regions: from administrators to co-legislators?

However, it is possible to imagine an enhanced legislative role or the Regions, that goes beyond their advisory role in the "Sistema delle conferenze". In fact, the Constitution formally entrusts the State only to “coordinate” this matter. The regions could then adopt detailed legislative acts, subject to compliance in the State’s coordination role. The practice of the most recent years has seen a gradual centralization of digitalization management, in the hands of the state and the EU, but if there were the regional political will, it would not be unthinkable nor implausible to reverse the trend.

Empowering regional entities in lawmaking could enhance responsiveness to local needs and foster a more nuanced approach to governance. This shift may not only strengthen regional autonomy but could also contribute to a more balanced distribution of legislative powers. However, careful consideration is essential to strike a harmonious balance between regional and national interests, ensuring that such decentralization aligns with the broader goals of effective governance and national cohesion.

In conclusion, the process of digitalization in Italy has a direct impact on regional autonomy, especially since it overlaps with matters of regional competence.While the Constitution grants a general legislative competence to the State, the dynamic nature of digital transformation necessitates collaboration between national and regional authorities. Regions can play a crucial role in ensuring the success of the digital transition by efficiently executing plans and, simultaneously, actively contributing to the formulation of national strategies. The next level, for a region or autonomous province that wants to take the extra step, blazing its own trail in the digital transition, is to explore the extent to which regional legislation can be used to develop its own strategies and law on these matters.

[...] for a region or autonomous province that wants to take the extra step, blazing its own trail in the digital transition, is to explore the extent to which regional legislation can be used to develop its own strategies and law on these matters

Elia Aureli

Elia Aureli

Elia Aureli works as a researcher at the Institute for Comparative Federalism in Eurac Research, Bolzano. He is a PhD Graduate in “Studi giuridici comparati ed europei” at the University of Trento, and graduated in Law at the University of Milan-Bicocca. He attended, with scholarship, the master's course in Parliamentary law “Seminario di Studi e Ricerche Parlamentari Silvano Tosi” in 2019 and served an internship at the Prime Minister's Office, at the Legislative Department (DAGL); he collaborates with the chair of Public Law at the University of Trento for classes, exams and tutorchip. He has published various academic articles in journals specializing in public and constitutional law and participated in many conferences in the same field.

Tags

Citation

https://doi.org/10.57708/btbsmmihcraonisuuecauoa
Aureli, E. The Digitalization process in Italy: the impact on Regional Autonomy. https://doi.org/10.57708/BTBSMMIHCRAONISUUECAUOA

Related Post

The 19th of all EU-r rights: protection against expulsion and how the Charter contributes
ScienceBlogs
eureka

The 19th of all EU-r rights: protection against expulsion and how the Charter contributes

Gabriel N. ToggenburgGabriel N. Toggenburg
Evelyn Mostrom/Unsplash
ScienceBlogs
eureka

The “Green deal for a sustainable future”: 2021’s European Development Days

Mariachiara AlbertonMariachiara Alberton
Eurac Research/Fundación Giménez Abad
ScienceBlogs
eureka

Chronicling Hungary and Poland’s crises

Mario KöllingMario Kölling

Science Shots Newsletter

Science Shots Eurac Research Newsletter

Get your monthly dose of our best science stories and upcoming events.

Choose language