Pay with One Click

Go to the profile of Diego Piacentini
May 22, 2017
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Pay with One Click

Technology at the service of people: with PagoPA, payments are easy, fast, and secure (with lower costs to the state)

Questo articolo è disponibile anche in italiano

There are small battles being fought within the digital revolution that have the effect of changing our habits forever. They leave us with one question in mind: how did we do this before?

Today we too are fighting – and winning – a small battle, a battle that will serve to bring us in line with European payment standards: the things we used to do at a bank or a post office will from now on be done on the Internet through PagoPA. Tomorrow – by the end of 2017 – they will be done directly on your smartphone.

We want to make it easier to pay for things like taxes, school meals and other services. We want people to be able to skip the queue at the service window and pay through the internet using a simple and secure system. That is why we are changing and improving the existing platform, PagoPA, a service that has been around for a few years now but has not yet been widely used. We are confident that if we improve the platform, making it similar to platforms used by the most advanced European countries, more administrations will decide to adopt it and more citizens will want to use it. We have already made some changes and there are others we will be making in the next six months.

But let’s take this one step at a time.

What is PagoPA?

PagoPA is a unique node for Italian public payments, where people can pay taxes, university tuition fees and school meals, fines and TARI (solid waste tax) as well as many other services.

It’s a platform designed by AgID that allows every citizen to choose how and with whom they wish to pay, whether it’s online or offline. PagoPA is a system that also represents an operational solution for the Public Administration. It’s a tool for managing payments centrally, providing automated reporting and reconciliation services to one (or more) state accounts, without errors and with huge savings on the cost of processing.

Even though PagoPA was launched in 2013 it is still being used infrequently. Why? Because it is, in fact, optimized for administrative processes (like reporting and reconciliation) and not for the citizen and his or her user experience. Neither citizens nor public administrations have recognized its advantages.

Yeah, but.. in layman’s terms?

Take, for example, the TARI. In order to pay this tax, a notice arrives in the mail indicating the amount to be paid and instructions – not always clear – on how to pay it. In general, you pay at the post office by using a stamped paper form or by manually filling out the F24 payment form on your bank’s home banking page, or again, with another paper form at a bank transaction window, risking manual errors at every step in the process and getting no payment confirmation from the Municipality for your payment. In addition, the Municipality itself must manually calculate the sums collected and redirect them (always manually) to the treasury account. The odds that something will go wrong are pretty high, which is why we have to keep the receipt for years, to prove payment in the event of a dispute.

PagoPA has been around since 2013, but because the Administrations adhered with so few services, citizens have not been using it very much (from 2013 to the end of 2016 there were just under eight hundred thousand transactions, compared to the hundreds of millions made in the same period for paying taxes or services).

This is the starting point from which the Team for Digital Transformation has begun to:

  • collaborate with AgID – the Italian Digital Agency – to improve the online user experience of citizens from a mobile first perspective;
  • improve citizen’s offline user experience (paper-based notifications);
  • increase the quality and number of services displayed on the PagoPA node by central and local public administrations (such as parking and local public transport);
  • change the architecture of the node from a pure hub that delivers transactions to the banking world to a real payment system that can open itself to the world of innovative and non-traditional solutions (such as PayPal, Satispay and Masterpass).

All in compliance with European payment regulations (PSD and PSD2).

Offline user experience? But isn’t it an online future?

The future is not “just” online, it is “also” online. The citizen is at the center of The Digital Transformation Team decisions and citizens must be able to pay the way they prefer. If a citizen wants to pay at the tobacconist shop or at the post office, we’ll make it even easier for them by creating easy-to-read paper notifications, comprehensible to everyone and – why not? – even more beautiful to see.

We have already done this with the City of Palermo and the City of Milan, who have adopted the new format by integrating themselves with PagoPA. The updated notice provides already valid and up-to-date instructions and indicates to citizens all possible payment methods: municipality website, banks, post offices, tobacconists, betting outlets (yes, they are a popular payment locations in Italy, together with tobacconist shops). This initiative has been joined by the seven municipalities with which we are collaborating directly and by the many other Public Administrations that have already joined PagoPA.

Our goal is to keep working until every citizen can pay in a matter of seconds directly from their cellphone. You will be able to receive a push notification or an SMS, go to your profile in your municipality’s app where you will find your personalized payment settings  credit card, bank account or other  and then >em class="markup--em markup--p-em">click! you will receive a payment receipt notification via mail or push, and be certain that you have paid the correct amount. We are making progress and we have the desire and capacity to do much more in collaboration with all the actors involved.

Personalized Payment Methods

Inorder for citizens to make payments with one click, regardless of the method of payment, we needed to allow PagoPA to store a user’s payment preferences while respecting security standards.

To do this, we have worked on the service architecture, integrating the typical components of a payment system and exposing the available services until the Public Administration and community developers can adopt PagoPA with ease. It is for this reason that, by the end of this year, we will provide SDKs (Software Development Kits) for mobile apps and APIs, and handle the system in an open way so as to accommodate all the solutions of the market players who will want to join and have the appropriate features to do so.

Because evolving and opening up to the market is the only way to keep up with the times.

In this process, the role of the Developers Community created by Team Digital will be crucial, as it develops open source solutions to help public administrations in providing additional services.

An Evolving Platform

Starting from an already existing version of PagoPA, The Digital Transformation Team has been working with AgID to update the platform. Thanks to our practice of listening to stakeholders, we have re-imagined its architecture, user interface and usability for an easy and mobile first approach. By consulting with local and central administrations, we have also been able to verify the advantages of the process and observe the drastic reduction in costs. We have achieved the hoped-for results (and sometimes even more), but above all we have triggered a positive evolution.

Diego wrote about it in his post on the new Operating System of the Country:

PagoPA: “Pay with One Click.” A better, more intuitive way for citizens to transfer money to the Public Administration. Payments will be immediate, fast, and more cost-effective for the country. Citizens should be able to choose, with minimal friction, a modern payment method that is integrated with the general market and to which may be added new payment technologies as they evolve. We want to make the system as flexible and open as possible.

Of course, it’s not like we’ve invented anything. And yet, our deep conviction is that bringing modern technology to the inner workings of the Public Administration is, in itself, an extraordinary result. This is why we are working with so many Administrations, accompanying them and guiding them through the adoption of PagoPA, overcoming together the technical and organizational difficulties, especially those tied to the migration of various services.

Some figures

Upuntil last year, despite the obligation to move to the node by 2015, PagoPA was not achieving the capillary diffusion that was expected. Just over two thousand municipalities were involved out of the planned eighty thousand, and only seven hundred thousand payment transactions were made out of a total potential of hundreds of millions of operations.

The Digital Transformation Team and AgID have worked together to ensure that seven of the largest Italian Municipalities have adhered to PagoPA, leading to the incorporation of major tributes such as TARI, fines and school fees. But most importantly, we have obtained their willingness to act as “pilot areas” for the innovations or system evolutions that we are figuring out (or are going to figure out).

In addition, major Public Administrations – such as ACI – Automobile Club Italia – are migrating the payment of their services to the node, and we are already in touch with other important players to better adapt PagoPA to the needs of citizens.

>em class="markup--em markup--pullquote-em">It’s fundamental that all municipalities and all public administrations should make this journey with us.

Only by working together will we be able to reach our goal of ten million payments by the end of 2017 and thirty million payments in 2018, depending on a positive acceptance of PagoPA among citizens. This will be the measure of our success and will contribute to the real and tangible digital growth of the country.

The Public Administration will benefit from a drastic reduction in process costs (costs that today weigh heavily on the entire community), and the state can gradually eliminate the use of cash (the most widely used method to date) to favor the use of electronic payments.

And this is a big step forward, given that this would help to reduce the costs associated with cash management, which in Italy amount to ten billion euros per year, equal to 0.53% of GDP (source: Ambrosetti). This latter aspect, in particular, would be a breath of fresh air for the digital payment ecosystem, favoring the development of new technologies and alternative solutions for a cashless culture and growth in the Fintech startup sector.

As we have said since the beginning of this adventure as the Team for Digital Transformation, our mission is to innovate. Innovate to help the country grow and finally trigger a change.

We want to see many small revolutions arising, like the one of digitalizing the payments of the Public Administration. We want to finally be able to say, in a few years, “Hey! Do you remember what those queues for paying at the government offices were like?”

Giuseppe Virgone  

Digital Payments


Go to the profile of 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 Amazon.com (2000-2016)

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