Converting Online Public Legal Information into Knowledge: ABC del Diritto, an Italian e-Government Citizen-oriented Service

Autore:Roberta Nannucci/Maria Angela Biasiotti
Carica:The authors are respectively a senior researcher and a junior researcher under contract working at the Institute of Legal Information Theory and Techniques (ITTIG) of the Italian National Research Council (CNR)

1. Introduction. e-Government Challenge. 2. Objectives. Benefits from e-Government Citizen-oriented Services: From Information to Knowledge. 2.1. Information Dissemination State of the Art. 2.2. ABC for the Law Framework. 3. Methodology and Case Description. Managing Legal Knowledge in e-Government Citizen-oriented Services: ABC for the Law. 4. Conclusions and Recommendations.


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@1. Introduction. e-Government Challenge

e-Government is the use of information and communication technologies in public administration -combined with organisational change and new skills -to improve public services and democratic processes and to strengthen support to public policies. e-Government is a way for public administration to become more open and transparent, and to reinforce democratic participation; more service-oriented, providing personalised and inclusive services to each citizen. e-Government implies both ICTs and human resources: whereas governments are suppliers of the e-Government system, end-users/citizens are its customers. So, the implementation of e-Government, while implying the modernization of procedures and structures within PA organizations (that is e-Administration), regards also the change of procedures and modalities in which citizens and PA relate each other (that is e-Democracy), and all together aim at achieving a new way of ruling public matters, that is a new Governance or e-Governance.

Therefore, e-Government with all its strategic outlined roles becomes an essential step in the development process of a new governance form as hoped and promoted by the European Union, whereas it involves not only the improvement of services quality, but mainly makes users morePage 176 aware of public activities in progress and favours their active participation as citizens.

Generally speaking the specific goals of e-Government services should be to enhance citizens awareness and to convert available information into achievable knowledge.

The understanding of people who will be using e-Government services is therefore critical for creating good added-value services.

This should extend to the way they understand computers and the internet, the ways in which they think about and carry out tasks, and the context in which they will do this. Understanding, however, is one thing, an effective use is something else. Even if a service might be created to be useful to citizens but does not take into account how it can be utilized by them, the constraints on their attention, their level of technical ability, the difficulty of accessing it and finding relevant data, then it is almost unlikely that it will be used at all. This type of service is of little interest for citizens.

Presently ABC for the law citizen/user target is mainly represented by those categories able to retrieve online information and to use possibilities offered by Information Technologies tecnhniques in a proper way. This happens with those persons who have a sufficient digital literacy background. In the Italian panorama this is true for some categories of young professionals such as academics, lawyers, accounters, administrators and not really for the common citizen. Nevertheless, as digital literacy is increansingly being diffused to the general public, access to online services such as ABC are growning as it is possible to verify by system monitoring.

Finally, also the Public Sector Information Directive Directive 2003/98/EC on the re-use of public sector information adopted by the European Parliament and by the Council on 17 November 2003 was designed to make it easier for content producers to use and add value to information produced by the public sector, both providing useful content for the development of the Information Society and making public sector content more accessible to more people.

@2. Objectives. Benefits from e-Government Citizen-oriented Services: From Information to Knowledge

This paper aims at demonstrating that citizen-oriented services such as ABC for the Law are able to facilitate access of citizens to the legalPage 177 information offered by public amministrations converting information into real knowledge using the possibilities arisng from ICTs. Specifically the metodology applied for building up the system focuses the attention on the identifycation of those legal concepts involved in the legisltaion on the net search and therefore to be acquired by the user in order to understand the result. So that ABC can also be considered a sort of tutorial guiding the user in his searching and making him understand the data he finds in a more conscious way.

Offering additional information about other related sources available online and widens the user research strategies and increases his knowledge background.

These is also possible as ABC considers all legal concepts involved when searching for legislation on the net.

@@2.1. Information Dissemination State of the Art

Through cyberspace people are presently involved in ways never envisioned before: they are often overwhelmed by information which is frequently not exhaustively clear as to contents and language. For these reasons and for other technical barriers it is evident that information itself is not yet knowledge. Citizens need places where information can be transformed into knowledge, that is shared understanding. Specifically, recent research into e-Government...

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