#DigiGovSpotlight Digital ID wallet, accelerating and regulating AI use among Italy’s digital government priorities

By Si Ying Thian

Among the Agency for Digital Italy’s priorities are the implementation of IT-wallet, a digital ID wallet containing government-issued documents, as well as to accelerate and regulate the use of AI in the public sector, says its digital government chief Mario Nobile.

Implementing the digital ID wallet is next on the agency's agenda after the rollout of its national digital ID. Image: Agency for Digital Italy's LinkedIn.

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Launched in March 2016 by the Agency for Digital Italy (AgID), Italy’s national digital identity, also known as the Public Digital Identity System (SPID), has issued 37.7 million digital IDs. It now has nearly 18,000 administrations providing services through SPID.


AgID is now looking at gradually implementing the “IT-wallet” project, a digital ID wallet that incorporates not only the national identity card but other government-issued documents such as driving licenses, health cards and the European Disability Card.


IT-wallet represents a concrete step towards rationalising and improving digital identity and access to public services in Italy, Mario Nobile, AgID’s Director General, tells GovInsider.


Screenshot of a login page that uses SPID credentials. Users will need to first select their ID provider to get to the login page Users can either log in with their ID and password, or simply frame the QR code. Image: Easy Milano.

AgID is the digital government agency of Italy. Its role is to ensure that that the objectives of the Italian Digital Agenda are achieved and to coordinate the digital transformation of central, regional, and local administrations.


Tasked to draft and supervise guidelines and technical rules for information systems used across agencies, AgID plays a key role in enabling the interoperability and uniformity of the digital government agenda.


In the case of SPID, AgID sets the standards and provides accreditations for private identity providers.


Private identity providers help manage user authentication according to the rules issued by AgID.


According to the OCED’s knowledge sharing platform, Observatory of Public Sector Innovation (OPSI), SPID is a public-private partnership that provides a public service of “zero cost for the public administration.”


“The Digital Italy Agency defines a strict set of rules to become SPID Identity Provider, but the costs related to the maintenance of the service are borne by the Identity Providers,” it explained.

Capacity building and interoperability key to enabling the digital ID wallet


Nobile shares that for the IT-wallet to be a success, it will require substantial investment to develop and maintain its infrastructure.


Following COVID-19, the National Recovery and Resilience Plan allocated over €41 billion (US$44 billion) to implement digitalisation policies in public sector agencies, and strengthen internet connectivity across the country.


The agency also received funding from the European Union (EU) over the past few years on the “Italia Login – The Citizen’s House” project, which aims to strengthen the institutional capacity of its public administration for digitalisation.


“Within the framework of the project, AgID has carried out several activities such as creating an access layer to online services, vertical ecosystem layers, interoperability infrastructures of national databases, and training to enhance digital skills,” Nobile explains.


According to public sector consultancy Forum PA, the activities were carried out from 2014 to 2023 to support public administration in the digital transition process. The range of interventions focused on interoperability, usability, and efficiency.


As of February 2023, it claimed that all the programme targets were met and even exceeded expectations. With an assigned budget of €50 million (US$53.44 million), €45.5 million (US$48.63 million) was spent, equivalent to more than 90 per cent of the budget.


AgID’s Three-Year Plan for ICT in the Public Administration and the Digital Italy 2026 plan outlines the key priorities for Italy’s digital government agenda, and the use of the abovementioned funds.


Some of these priorities include accessibility to digital services, open data, interoperability, e-procurement, and cloud computing, says Nobile.

Balancing acceleration and regulation of AI use


For the first time, the new 2024 to 2026 Three-Year Plan dedicates a wide space to the use of AI in public administration, providing tools and use cases for its utilisation, says Nobile.


AI has the potential to free up public officials’ time for higher value and more strategic work, improve data-driven decision making, and enhance public service delivery.

Following the world's first AI act passed by the EU parliament, Nobile from SPID says that a national strategy update around responsible AI is currently in the works. Image: Canva.


Some of these use cases include automating information search, predicting trends and future needs, and personalising information and services to the user’s needs.


“AI helps us to respond to the growing need to improve efficiency and effectiveness in the management and delivery of public services,” says Nobile.


Following the world’s first set of AI regulations passed by the EU parliament last month, Nobile shares that the government is currently working on a national strategy update to guide the development and use of AI in a responsible and inclusive way.


AgID’s priorities balance the reinforcement and regulation of AI in public administration at the national and EU level, adds Nobile.

A toolkit for safe and trustworthy AI usage


AI deployment in the public sector was highlighted a key focus at this year’s G7 Summit chaired by the Italian Presidency. G7 Summit is an international forum held annually for the leaders of G7 member states.


At the G7, the Italian Presidency committed to developing a toolkit that will set out practical principles for safe and trustworthy AI to inform policy making.


The toolkit will also leverage on the work of the Hiroshima AI process developed by the Japanese G7 Presidency last year.


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