Will our government please take note?

Bill Gates is no stranger to Italy; in fact, he seems to be rather fond of coming here to sign strategic partnerships between Microsoft and public-sector partners, from Poste Italiane to the City of Milan, agreements that have yet to produce any visibly useful effects for us citizens and customers. Today, I would like to offer a useful Gates quote from a Q& A session before a recent Inter-American Development Bank conference in Miami, as reported by Reuters (see full speech and and Q&A here):

Chairman Bill Gates credited the Internet on Friday with making “phenomenal” inroads in beefing up government transparency, saying cabinet ministers in Scandinavia now keep little, if anything, private.

“The Nordic countries, with Sweden and Denmark, have really taken it to an amazing level,” Gates told a conference on Latin American government, ahead of an annual Inter-American Development Bank meeting in Miami.

“Whenever a (Nordic cabinet) minister goes out to lunch, you can see how much he spent for lunch and how much on the cab. It literally goes up (on the Internet) within a few hours,” he said.

He was referring to detailed postings tracking daily business on government Web sites, which include everything from cabinet ministers’ calendars to budgets and real-time accounts of the bidding for lucrative government contracts.

“Every bid that’s ever done, the bidders come up on the networks, you see the terms they offer,” said Gates, still referring to the new, Web-savvy operating procedures in places like Sweden.

“It’s a very open, transparent bidding process,” he said, adding that the “things about government that really count” were now accessible to anyone with a personal computer.

Mr. Stanca, likely future Minister for Innovation and Technology; Mr. Alfano, likely future Minister for Public Affairs: even if Mr. Berlusconi has candidly confessed that he knows nearly nothing about the Internet, will you please take note of Mr. Gates’s wise words?

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