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Italy to pilot social credit scheme for ‘climate friendly’ behavior

ROME — The city of Bologna, Italy, has announced a pilot program to reward “virtuous” citizens for recycling, using public transport and reducing energy consumption.

The scheme, which has been compared to China’s social credit system, is expected to come into effect in September 2022, using a “smart citizen wallet” app for cellphones.

“In September, we are going to start with a pilot project for the city: at the center is the virtuous citizen, the one who, for example, sorts waste well or does not waste energy, or uses public transport and does not receive no fines, or actively use the Bologna Welcome Card,” Massimo Bugani, adviser for the city’s digital agenda and civic use of data, announced at a press conference late last month.

“The municipality will award these citizens a score as part of a reward system with economic benefits for individual users,” Bugani explained.

Citizens will have access to their rating, which can be improved by earning points which they can then ‘spend’ on prizes such as discounts and cultural activities as a reward for their ‘virtuous behavior’.

Bugani said the app was part of a wider initiative by the city of Bologna to engage in digital innovation. “What we call a new ‘water system’ for the city is being built,” he said, adding that in the coming years “many services will go digital in Italy; here we have an ambitious project based on solid foundations.

Although Bugani insisted that participation in the program will be voluntary, he expressed confidence that many will sign up.

A commuter exchanges plastic bottles for transit credit at a reverse vending machine on October 8, 2019 at the Cipro underground metro station on line A in Rome. Commuters in Rome can save money and help the environment by swapping plastic for transit credits. (TIZIANA FABI/AFP via Getty)

Critics of the program, such as Italian tech firm Privacy Network, which specializes in digital privacy, have warned of the legal, ethical and societal implications of such apps.

“These practices, if improperly developed or used, can result in serious limitations and violations of citizens’ rights and freedoms, as well as discriminatory practices, which are also carried out through technological means, such as ‘social credit’ systems. (or social rating),” reads an online statement from the Privacy Network.

Others noted that social credit apps, “if improperly developed or used, can lead to serious limitations and violations of citizens’ rights and freedoms, as well as discriminatory practices.” Nowhere have the dangers of this practice been more evident than in China, where social credit scores affect citizens’ ability to travel, education, employment and even welfare.

It is not surprising that in Italy, social credit scoring is introduced in relation to environmental friendliness, given its love affair with green politics.

As Breitbart News reported, the Italian government has introduced air conditioning and heat rationing in an effort to reduce the country’s reliance on imported Russian energy.

From May 21, public buildings will be restricted in their use of heating and air conditioning, with caps set on maximum and minimum temperatures and stiff fines for non-compliance.

While the mandatory limits will initially only affect public buildings, air conditioning and heat rationing could be extended to private homes in the future, according to reports.

Like much of Europe, Italy has become heavily dependent on Russian oil and gas due to its reluctance to produce its own energy and EU governments currently provide a few billion dollars a day to Moscow for its gas and oil.


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