From Seattle to Rome

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From Seattle to Rome

Digital innovation for citizens and for the development of the country

Questo articolo è disponibile anche in italiano

I worked for 13 years at Apple and 16 at Amazon. After such a unique learning experience and many years away from my home country, I have decided to “give back”. I accepted the invitation of the Italian Prime Minister, Matteo Renzi, to assist the Government in accelerating the digital transformation of the country and to support the simplification of the relationship between the Public Administration, citizens and business. I will work pro bono for two years as “Government Commissioner for the Digital Agenda”, and will report directly to the Prime Minister. Commissioner is not a very cool title, but the team’s activities will be super-cool. The name of the team is Digital Transformation Team - Italian Government. Paolo Barberis, Innovation Adviser to the Italian Prime Minister since September 2014, will work with me; he is also helping pro bono.

Now I need to create this team. Without an enthusiastic and competent pool of talents, I will not go too far. I, therefore, decided to write my first post addressing those potential candidates directly.

Dear talents, who either live in Italy or abroad and have the desire to come back - even if only for a limited period of time and at a compensation level which is most likely much lower than what you are currently making: how do I convince you to join us? Allow me to explain what we have in mind and describe the type of people we need in order to help build the fundamental blocks of the country’s operating system.

The Digital Transformation Team is seeking bilingual (Italian and English) talents with proven experience in computer science (software architecture, mobile application development, open source software, information security, APIs), mathematics and statistics (predictive models, machine learning), product design, user experience and other roles connected to the digital agenda.


The “operating system” of the country: a series of fundamental blocks upon which services for citizens, the Public Administration, and enterprises are built with modern digital products.


Make public services for citizens accessible in an easy manner, via a mobile first approach, with reliable, scalable and fault tolerant architectures, based on clearly defined APIs; support the different central and local government departments in making the best and most data driven decisions, thanks to the adoption of big data and machine learning techniques.


  1. Coordinate the different government and PA stakeholders to manage existing and future digital programs in an integrated manner with an agile methodology and an open data approach
  2. Identify new digital and technology transformation initiatives
  3. Become one authoritative centre of digital and innovation competence for the different government and PA stakeholders in order to share guidelines, directives and opinions
  4. Create a community of developers and designers who can contribute to the development of Application Programming Interfaces and digital services; report and solve technological challenges; provide information and training on digital innovation principles and create a shared wealth of tools and services
  5. Lay a foundation for an evolving architecture that will grow over time and will stay on top of emerging technological trends


To accomplish these tasks the team must be motivated, technically very skilled, with professional experience in engineering, computer science, big data, mathematics, statistics, machine learning, open source software, security, product design and user experience, mobile application development, software architecture, and developer relations. We need real “missionaries”, who will be presented with the opportunity to contribute to the mission of ferrying Italy into the future.

The team must be joined by people with proven success in their respective fields, with operating experience and not only with a consulting background, who share a desire to make a difference, are used to think out of the box, and have the courage to change the status quo; they must also know how to patiently work under pressure, to be determined and manage complex situations with enthusiasm. It is important to be vocally self-critical and to be ready to learn from mistakes.

Listening, transparency and sharing are the core values that drive the actions of this team; we are certain that it will be possible to guide Italy into the future only by sharing the team’s vision, mission, objectives, code (when appropriate), designs, ideas, successes and even failures with everyone. In this sense, the team is not only open to discussion, but we also appreciate constructive criticism and suggestions. This open approach will serve to constantly raise the level of innovation, while counting on the cooperation and participation of everyone. The team values and appreciates cultural and gender diversity, which we encourage in the hiring process.

Our Manifesto of Technological and Operating Principles

  1. Security and privacy are the most important tenets; the team never makes compromises in this regard
  2. We will value existing technological assets; we will not rebuild what already works in the Italian PA and will also be inspired by functional international models
  3. We will be obsessed with simplification; everything we do will be easy to use for all citizens
  4. We will think and design with a mobile first approach
  5. We will evaluate and leverage open source technologies
  6. We will follow modern design patterns, including service oriented, fault tolerant, scalable and elastic architecture
  7. We will be relentlessly data driven; we will apply machine learning and artificial intelligence techniques, whenever necessary to solve complex problems
  8. We will be open and vocal about our technical innovations, publishing papers that detail what we built, the decisions we took, the mistakes we made and the benefits we saw
  9. We will lay out a long term vision, but also identify intermediate milestones that allow us to quickly deliver value to Italian citizens
  10. We will continue learning; we will not limit ourselves to these principles and we will add new ones

Nota Bene

Keep in mind: we are going to be working in a government environment. We will have the opportunity to collaborate with incredibly bright, smart, strong-willed and well-intentioned people scattered around the Public Administration who have a sincere desire to improve and do the right things. There are, in fact, modern and innovative teams and excellent but isolated units, capable of achieving a lot with few resources.

However, the current status of the public digital infrastructure shows the consequence of lack of agile central coordination. Much has been done in the recent past, but most of the programs are not aligned and many systems and websites were built with outdated technology, insufficient attention to user experience, poor integration and, often, a lack of interoperability.

We will also find many complicated, sometimes unintelligible, norms and rules; we will need to be prepared to cleverly deal with bureaucracy.

People will tell us “you don’t comprehend how the public administration works”, “many already tried and failed” and “in Italy it doesn’t work this way!”

We will get a lot of criticism. Some will be sincere and helpful, some will be prejudiced and cynical. The former will come from people who genuinely want to help, the latter from people who either need to defend the status-quo or believe the glass is always “half empty” or, more simply, have learned helplessness.

For those who are not afraid of such obstacles, who feel a deep connection with these objectives and with these principles, thrive in ambiguous situations, have a knack for simplification, our team is the right place.

Open positions and job descriptions of the Digital Transformation Team - Italian Government

  • Duration of employment: we would ask for at least one year commitment but we are happy if you stay longer, up to September 2018. Our objective is to create a permanent team but today we are constrained by the legislative framework which defines the first duration of this team until September 2018
  • Compensation: most positions will be paid in the income brackets of €70,000–120,000 per annum.
  • Place of work: Rome, but for some positions we can consider partially remote work solutions
  • Relocation: we cannot offer relocation and travel benefits and/or travel reimbursements from your residence to Rome
  • Type of employment contract: you will be appointed as “expert” of the Government. The modality of payment will be established at the time of the appointment on the basis of the applicable law
  • Dress code: you will occasionally have to wear that nice dress or suit you keep in your closet for special ceremonies but most of the times you will dress in a casual way

Diego Piacentini

Diego Piacentini

Commissioner for Digital Transformation Italian Government , Italian Presidency of the Council of Ministers

General Manager Apple Europe (1987-1999) Sr VP International Consumer Business (2000-2016)