Power - Web 2.0 Participative Portals for Emilia-Romagna

27. May 2009 – 11:57 by Roberto Zarro

Logo of the Emilia-Romagna's Telematic Plan

The project is promoted by the Emilia-Romagna Region in the framework of its Telematic Plan, and realized by the Municipalities of Bologna, Ferrara, Modena, Piacenza and Reggio Emilia. The aim of the project is to understand, both with studies and analysis, both with tests, how much and in which ways institutions can integrate web 2.0 tools in their official websites and portals. Leda Guidi, manager of the Bologna’s institutional civic net Iperbole and Power’s project manager, highlights goals, plans and early results of the project.

Leda Guidi, why this project?
Technologically, institutions are already able to change the way they communicate on line: a lot of good solutions are already available also for the public sector. The real problem is rather to understand opportunities, and above all limits, that could descend from choosing 2.0 models and directions. What happens, for instance, if a citizen posts an insult or a commercial message on an institutional website? We think that there are always legal but also political consequences for the institutions.

What did you already realize with Power?
We started collecting national and international case studies about use of web 2.0 by the institutions. Then we wrote a study about limits and critical factors concerning these scenarios and in the meantime we realized a software platform who allows to integrate some web 2.0 tools - as wiki, comment, rating and tagging mechanism, user generated content systems, multilingualism and geo-positioning – on the websites of the Municipalities taking part to the project.

Which kind of results came out from your study?
The main legal problems concern privacy, copyright and institutions’ responsibility for contents posted by others. We considered several scenarios: from the use of web 2.0 tools in institutional websites, till the presence of institutions on external platforms managed by ONG and social organizations. The result is that institutional risks get bigger the more they “bring web 2.0 home”, because there are rising bonds to consider and a lot of controls who cannot be underestimated. Anyway, we came to the conclusion that also “external solutions” present a lot of criticalities, specially by a political and corporate point of view. Obviously, we noticed also that there are a lot of big, positive opportunities descending from the use of web 2.0 in institutional contexts.

Did you collect these results?
We realized a set of guidelines, both theoretical both operative. In this second case they give functional, technical, editorial, organizational and methodological instructions to insert web 2.0 tools in institutional websites. We’ll share the guidelines with all public administrations in Emilia-Romagna who have intention to promote web 2.0 projects.

And what about the software platform. Is it ready?
Yes, it is. In May and June ’09 we programmed the first technical tests and then, from the autumn we’ll launch the first experimentations on our websites.

What are the experimentations programmed by the Municipality of Bologna?
We’ll launch three experimentations: users will have the possibility to comment and tag some informative pages and online services concerning the educational sector; we will realize some video interview with ancient people who took part to the so called “Resistenza” (the popular insurrection against nazi-fascism at the end of the II World War) and publish them in our Multimedia Resistenza’s Museum, and some pages of our portal will be translated in several languages with the direct contribution of the users.

And what is in program in the other Municipalities?
In Ferrara people will have the possibility to report architectural barriers via web using maps, and the Municipality will answer on the same website about their removal. In Modena users will have the possibility to comment and rate the quality of the contents published on the cultural portal and on a website dedicated to the regulation of timetables of offices and commercial activities in the town. The comments could be anonymous, but in this case limited to the expression of a rate, or textual, but only after the users’ identification via log-in. In Piacenza girls and boys will have new opportunities to post and share their original videoclips, songs and photos on the new portal dedicated to young artists. In Reggio Emilia there will be the prosecution and growth of a project started in 2008, who already allows young people to post videos, photos, and other multimedia contents via web or smartphone.

Finally, do you think there are chances to build an “institutional web 2.0”?
Web 2.0 and institutional point of view cannot totally overlap: there are rules and limits public administrations cannot exceed. Anyway, there are a lot of possibilities to mix these two models with very positive results. There’s only a great principle to consider: anybody has to do his specific job, we have to mix knowledge and skill, not roles and functions, these one must remain absolutely separate. Or, metaphorically: institutions cannot host in their offices free speech and dialogue, but sure they could contribute to the building of public places to enlarge and enrich discussions and citizens’ participation.

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