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Interview with Giampiero Palmieri, Modena Council and Claudio Forghieri, Manager of the Modena e-network Mo-Net

ParticipantsInterviewLiterature

The City of Modena (180,110 inhabitants) in the North of Italy has focused heavily on improving its communication with citizens during recent years. The project UnoX1 (literally ‘One by 1’), in particular, has won various awards and has come to be seen as a ‘best practice’ example in the Italian public sector. It offers citizens free information on key  issues that interest them, through the channel of their choice, and allows them to participate by e-mail or SMS in surveys about service quality. UnoX1 offers a wide range of information to its users – e.g. on leisure, public administration and politics, their professional work, news from local clubs and societies, etc. Although UnoX1 was conceived of as a personalised information system, it actually exploits the potential of new information technologies for Citizen Relationship Management (CRM) in the public sector.




Tony Bovaird interviewed Giampiero Palmieri and Claudio Forghieri on 24 March 2010 in order to learn more about the UnoX1 project in the City of Modena.

Participants


Giampiero Palmieri
Head of culture,
tourism, marketing
and youth services
in Modena Council
  
Claudio Forghieri
Manager of the Modena
e-network Mo-Net

Tony Bovaird
Governance International


Giampiero Palmieri
has a degree in political science from the University of Florence and has specialised in administrative law and administrative sciences at the University of Bologna. He has started his career as public manager in the local authority of Capri in 1983 before moving to Modena in 1988.

Claudio Forghieri is in charge of strategic development and projects related to communication in the City of Modena. Since 1995 he has coordinated MoNet, the e-network of the City of Modena. He is also scientific director of the journal “E-Gov – Information for Local Authorities”, published by Maggioli Editori. Claudio studied contemporary history at the University of Bologna.




Interview

Tony Bovaird: In our work with citizen groups all over Europe we often hear that many citizens – and particularly the most active ones - feel inundated with information. At the same time, we find that many citizens don’t know about the availability of many public services, or the kinds of support and activities available which could improve their quality of life. That’s why we have been very impressed by your project UnoX1, which aims to deliver specific information asked for by various target groups. Could you tell us how the project has been developed and what kind of results have been achieved so far?

 

Giampiero Palmieri: The project is unique, as it allows maximum user choice in relation to the communications they get from us – the name ‘One by 1’ comes from the fact that the users can decide which kind of information they want and on which communication channels. Thousands of active users of this system demonstrate that this approach is working. At present, UnoX1 consists mainly of a series of newsletters which are sent by email – but we also use the system for other purposes, like opinion polls. For example, we used it recently to survey citizen perceptions of the City Council’s services. The very fact that dozens of council offices have voluntarily adopted UnoX1 for their interactions with citizens shows that this is a viable model.

 

UnoX1 website

 

Tony Bovaird: Who was involved in the development of UnoX1? Which kind of changes resulted from the implementation of this system?

Claudio Forghieri: UnoX1 requires participation by a lot of staff from different units in the council, as most information is produced by the large number of officers who run the services and know the users. In the past, we used various information channels to inform citizens, in a one way flow. Actually, some service were not even present on our website and the information that was available was often of poor quality and difficult to find. UnoX1 allows us to get more reliable and user-oriented information and to have a two way communication with citizens. Service users give us comments and suggestions for improvement, e.g. through opinion surveys, so we get maximum feed-back on our services. Recently, we have given more room in the system to voluntary organisations, so they feel that they too are participating in the system.

 

 

Tony Bovaird: How many users does UnoX1 have? How many people have connected to the service?

Claudio Forghieri: At the moment we are collating information on more than 50 topics related to specific issues and sending out newsletters on these topics at different intervals – daily, weekly or monthly. Users can choose which kind of information he/she wants to receive. So far, we’ve had about 52,000 people registering (not necessarily all living in Modena). Since we launched UnoX1 in 2002 we have produced about 10,000 different newsletters, contributed to by more more than 50 sections of the City council.

 

 

Tony Bovaird: The idea of tailoring information according to the interests and preferences of each specific user is very important in the so-called ‘information age’ but this can bring problems. For example, has UnoX1 not involved additional costs for the City Council, since it is usually almost impossible to close down traditional channels of communication?

 

Giampiero Palmieri:.Yes, so far it has not been thinkable that we could use only the internet as our communication channel with citizens. Of course, we are looking for ways of relocating some services onto channels which are less costly and more user-friendly. This would help us to improve the reception services in the local authority for those services where the face-to-face presence of officeres is indeed needed. But actually we are also convinced that on-line services do really improve the information available to users and that UnoX1 will help to improve access to services as well as service quality. Therefore, we see it as an investment which should help us to achieve savings by cutting down on the use of more costly service channels, particularly our reception services, as well as responding better to the real needs of users.

 

 

Tony Bovaird: What is your experience in Modena with regard to limitations imposed by the available technologies and the internet skills of citizens?

Giampiero Palmieri: We have recently installed a network of Public Internet Access Points in sports facilities and also in the kinds of places used by elderly citizens. We have also set up free wi-fi access points in public places and parks. In future, we hope that growth of broadband, at home as well as in public libraries and other public facilities, and the widespread use of mobile phones, will help us shift service users away from the ‘traditional’ channels. As far as training is concerned, the City Council has run  many different activities for ICT ‘literacy’ in recent years, aimed at specific target groups. Indeed, the main problem now is not so much teaching people to use the computer or the internet but rather helping them to understand and exploit the potential that these channels offer in terms people’s specific needs and interests.

 

 

Tony Bovaird: What are the future plans with this project?

 

Claudio Forghieri: UnoX1 continues to be an important in our surveys and market research. Since 2005 it has also linked us to the network of a large of professional associations and community groups in Modena, helping to trigger more citizen engagement. The overall principle behind the project is to promote e-democracy. All our Citizen Relationship Management activities have to be seen in this context.

However, today we are strongly engaged in developing inter-active social media, based on the idea of “listening to citizens where they are and where they are willing to listen”. Since 2009 we have a permanent presence on Facebook, Youtube and Twitter. The results are impressive, particularly in relation to Facebook, where the City of Modena page in March 2010 has built up almost 5000 ‘friends’ and each month we are receiving hundreds of comments on council initiatives. In my view, one key advantage of the new social media is the way they allows immediate reactions and emotions – this makes citizens feel closer to government. All in all, the use of multi-media, in particular, the production of videos and the availability of new social media, integrate very well with CRM systems such as UnoX1 and this is enabling us to personalise public services.

Governance International is grateful to Giampiero Palmieri and Claudio Forghieri for this interview


Literature

To see how UnoX1 works in practice, please click here (in Italian)

 

Claudio Forghieri and Valentina Mele (2005), “Gestire i rapporti con i cittadini: comunicazione, multicanalità e citizen relationship management nella pubblica amministrazione”, Maggioli Editore.

 

Valentina Mele and Claudio Forghieri (2002), The Modena e-network for strengthening local governance and citizen participation, in: Tony Bovaird, Elke Löffler and Salvador Parrado Díez (eds.), Developing Local Governance Networks in Europe, Baden-Baden, Nomos Publishers, pp. 165-181.

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