Apple of Discord: Critics Call for Italy's Gadget-Loving Leader to Unplug

Matteo Renzi, Italy's prime minister, speaks during a parliamentary session inside the Senate, the upper house of parliament, in Rome on Feb. 24, 2014. Renzi's government faces confidence votes in parliament this week, the first test since taking office for the 39-year-old who rose to power as a critic of the political establishment. Photographer: Alessia Pierdomenico/Bloomberg

When in Rome, do as the Americans do.

At least, that seems to be the approach of Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi when it comes to technology.

The 39-year-old former mayor of Florence has caused a stir in the political world by bringing his iPad mini, iPhone and MacBook Air to Parliament. No, he wasn't caught playing poker on his smartphone like U.S. Senator John McCain. But in a country where fax machines still reign in a lot of public offices, Renzi's technological inclination has attracted criticism.

Italian newspapers have reported discontent among a few of Renzi's colleagues in Parliament, as well as some public opinion that doesn't think it's appropriate for a prime minister to "play" with such things. And in a scene that will seem familiar to parents across America, lower chamber member Fucsia Nissoli Fitzgerald recently called out to Renzi during her speech, "Hey, are you listening to me?" That was in reaction to the prime minister, whose eyes were glued to his iPad, according to La Repubblica.

Of course, Italians shouldn't be surprised by Renzi's love of technology. In addition to his youth and wit, it was his ease with new media such as Twitter that helped propel him to the top office.

And his affection for the latest gadgets can be seen as consistent with someone who wants to renew a country still famous for all "the great beauties" of its past and much less for the capacity to design the future.

That's a tall task for Renzi, who is trying to end the economic stagnation that has plagued Italy for 13 years.

If only there was an app for that.


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