Senado de España
The COVID-19 pandemic has necessitated rapid changes in the way institutions around the world operate. In Spain, the Senate has made substantial strides in digital transformation and electronic administration, enabling the institution to continue its work effectively and efficiently during these challenging times. This essay provides an in-depth examination of the key areas where the Spanish Senate has adapted and adopted new technologies in response to the pandemic, ensuring that parliamentary work continues without compromising safety.
Electronic Administration and Remote Work
The Spanish Senate had already made progress in implementing electronic administration before the pandemic, as required by Law 39/2015. Several electronic tools, such as senbox, an older system for storing and sharing documents in the cloud, and the public sector contracting platform, were already in use. However, the pandemic has significantly accelerated the adoption and widespread use of these tools, as well as the development of additional tools to facilitate remote work.
From March to December 2020, the Senate reported more than 100,000 electronically signed documents and incorporated over 70,000 documents into its document management system, which now stores more than 330,000 parliamentary and administrative documents. This rapid adoption of electronic tools has allowed Senate staff and members to work remotely and effectively manage their tasks, reducing the need for physical presence in the workplace and minimizing the risk of virus transmission.
The Spanish Senate had already begun using electronic contracting before the pandemic, employing the platform provided by the general administration of the state. This platform allows users to work from anywhere with an internet connection. As a result, electronic contracting has become even more widespread during the pandemic, as it allows for remote work and minimizes the need for physical interaction, maintaining both efficiency and safety.
Moreover, the electronic contracting platform has enabled the Senate to continue its operations without delays, ensuring that important decisions are made and contracts are awarded promptly. This has been crucial in enabling Spain to address the challenges posed by the pandemic effectively.
Electronic Voting in Plenary Sessions
The Spanish Senate had implemented a telematic electronic voting system in 2013, designed to allow certain senators, such as pregnant senators or those caring for children or sick relatives, to vote electronically from home on specific issues. However, the pandemic necessitated an expansion of this system to accommodate all senators and enable them to vote on all initiatives remotely.
The Senate rapidly evolved its electronic voting system in response to the pandemic, enabling its use for all senators starting from the plenary session on June 16-17, 2020. Senators can now vote using various devices connected to the internet, such as desktops, laptops, tablets, or mobile phones. This has allowed the Senate to conduct its sessions with reduced capacity in the chamber and maintain the continuity of its work.
This expansion of the electronic voting system has also provided valuable insights into the potential benefits and challenges of remote voting in the future. It has shown that remote voting can be a viable option for certain situations, even after the pandemic has subsided.
Integration of Electronic Voting Systems
In the summer of 2020, the Senate installed a new system of conferences and voting in the chamber, which had been planned before the pandemic. The project included the integration of the Bosch voting system and the Senate’s internal file management system. The integration allowed for a seamless combination of in-person voting with remote electronic voting.
As the pandemic situation improves, this system will enable a return to in-person participation while still accommodating authorized remote voting. The system is also prepared to handle secret telematic votes for appointments to senior positions in various public organizations, further enhancing its versatility and utility.
Conclusion: Embracing Digital Transformation in the Spanish Senate
The Spanish Senate’s rapid adaptation to the challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic demonstrates the potential for digital transformation in public institutions. The Senate has successfully implemented electronic administration, electronic contracting, and electronic voting systems that have enabled it to continue its operations without compromising safety.
The integration of these systems has ensured that the Senate’s essential work continues unabated during the pandemic, and these innovations have the potential to improve efficiency and accessibility in the future. As the pandemic subsides, the Spanish Senate can continue to embrace digital transformation, leveraging the lessons learned during this challenging period to create a more resilient, adaptable, and efficient institution.
Ultimately, the Spanish Senate’s experience serves as a valuable example of how public institutions can successfully navigate the challenges of a rapidly changing world by embracing digital transformation and adapting to new ways of working. As we move forward, the Spanish Senate and other institutions worldwide can continue to learn from each other and evolve to meet the needs of their citizens in the digital age.
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