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The digitation of the public procurement lifecycle: Artificial Intelligence application in procurement from January

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The new procurement code is pushing the accelerator on the digitisation of public contracts, with the first concrete experimentation in enhancing the efficiency of public activities scheduled to commence on January 1, 2024, specifically within the public procurement sector.

The new Code dedicates an entire section to the digitisation of the public procurement lifecycle and the establishment of the national digital procurement ecosystem (commonly known as e-procurement). This involves the complete transition to digital processes throughout the entire procurement lifecycle, from planning to final execution.

The innovation is outlined in Article 30 of Legislative Decree 36/2023, which states, “To improve efficiency, contracting authorities and awarding entities shall, where possible, automate their activities using technological solutions, including artificial intelligence and distributed ledger technologies, in compliance with specific provisions.”

Furthermore, Article 19, paragraph 7, stipulates that “where possible and depending on the type of procurement procedure, contracting authorities and awarding entities shall resort to automated procedures in the evaluation of offers, as per Article 30.”

For the government, Article 30 represents a significant component that supplements the use of algorithms and artificial intelligence systems within the entire administrative framework. This consideration aligns with the amendment to Article 3-bis of the Law of August 7, 1990, No. 241, which established the general rule for the use of information and communication technologies by public administrations to achieve greater efficiency in their activities, internal relationships, and interactions with private entities.

Article 30 builds upon principles long established at the European level regarding the use of artificial intelligence solutions, as well as those articulated by administrative judges who have already set parameters for contracting authorities.

New tools such as the national digital data platform, the virtual file of the economic operator, and the adoption of blockchain will streamline and expedite government procurement procedures. These advancements aim to broaden participation from market stakeholders, ensure transparency and information sharing, implement the principle of “once only” submission, where data related to the entire procurement lifecycle is provided only once to a single information system, and made available to contracting authorities and economic operators.

These solutions can be extended to the entire spectrum of public activities, aligning with principles mandated by simplification laws starting from Law 241/1990, which have remained largely theoretical until now. These principles include timely conclusion of administrative proceedings, prohibition of requesting documents already in possession of the proceeding administration or other public administrations, private sector participation in administrative procedures, accessibility to data and information held by public administrations, and coordination among involved public administrations in the same process.

Indeed, beyond the realm of procurement, ongoing experimentation with widespread digitization of public activities is taking place. This involves leveraging innovative tools such as artificial intelligence and the cloud to streamline bureaucratic procedures, reduce administrative complexity, and simplify access to services while ensuring efficient controls, equal opportunities, and ease of access to services.

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