Chaos in Milan Courts as Antivirus Program Overloads Computers
The office is responsible for 9,000 inmates in 12 Lombardy prisons yet for the past few days, computers at the registry of the supervisory court in Milan have been functioning sluggishly at best, or not at all. They’re slow, work intermittently or in some cases simply hang. Are they not getting enough attention? Quite the reverse. Someone’s been looking after them too well. A few days ago, they were updated with a very effective antivirus program but, unfortunately, the software requires a bigger memory than most of the registry’s elderly computers possess. It’s yet another paradox deriving from the much-vaunted but in practice over-optimistic digitalisation of justice.
Court registries that have subscribed to a controversial new ministry platform are currently migrating to a centralised, Italy-wide registration system. Passwords and permissions to individual computers will prevent the installation of unauthorised programs and enable remote assistance. Critics of the system say that it will also block automatic updates, complain about the lack of information on which programs can be installed and worry that any computer can be accessed centrally without the user’s consent. But the first practical problem to emerge is much more mundane. The new system is protected by cutting-edge software backed up by a complete virus database. Good news? Yes, provided you have computers with sufficient random access memory to run the antivirus program, which requires at least 512 megabytes of RAM but can create problems even when the computer has one gigabyte, or twice that figure.
The upshot is that nine of the supervisory court’s 47 computers are out of action because they have less than 512 MB of RAM, eleven are struggling with only the bare minimum and 14 more battle on heroically with between 512 MB and 1 GB of RAM. Despite the ingenuity and effort of court staff, 15 workstations out of 47 are not “fit for purpose”, consigned to the dustbin, ironically enough, by the advance of technology. So why not get some new computers? Well, it’s not that easy. In January, the supervisory court submitted its requests and on 31 March, CISIA, the ministry’s technical office in Milan, allocated just two computers. On 14 September, the supervisory court IT office warned that six months had elapsed but the computers were “not yet in our possession”, in fact “in the meantime, another two relatively new computers are no longer functioning”. In this case, “relatively new” means “from 2005” or five years old. In the past day or so, the Magistratura democratica and Movimenti (AREA) magistrates’ associations have forwarded to the magistracy council (CSM) a document that reviews the “dramatic situation” of Italy’s judicial information technology in these times of belt-tightening. The report says: “It is not hard to imagine that the ministry will have to deal with backlogs and already programmed deadlines but not even these are known or under control” partly because of “a public accounts structure that makes it almost impossible for outsiders to grasp the actual state of affairs”.
by Luigi Ferrarella