Digital Transformation

5 min

Building Bridges to Democracy: The Knesset's Approach to Constructing Effective Legislative Portals

Câmara dos Deputados | Brazil

Strategic Partners



Open parliament innovations, encompassing a broad spectrum of digital tools designed to bolster citizen engagement in legislative processes, have emerged as a significant facet of modern democracies. The potential of these tools to foster inclusivity, transparency, and accountability is immense. However, successfully implementing these tools into traditional parliamentary structures and processes can be a daunting challenge, given the political implications and the resistance to change. Drawing insights from Brazil’s journey with open parliament initiatives, this essay delves deeper into the strategies that can enhance the political viability of these innovations, thereby fostering a more participatory democracy.


Understanding the Traditional Nature of Parliaments


Parliaments, by their very nature, are entrenched in tradition. They are institutions with a long history of established processes and ways of functioning. Consequently, significant changes in lawmaking procedures and political practices are often met with resistance. It’s essential, therefore, to understand and respect the time it takes for these changes to be assimilated into the traditional parliamentary structure. This means initiating a gentle, gradual transformation through controlled experiments or pilot programmes, which can serve as a platform to test these innovations and allow all participants – parliamentarians, legislative officials, and citizens – to learn and adapt to the new ways of working within the parliamentary structure.


Emphasising the Importance of People over Tools


The advent of digital technology has undoubtedly brought about a plethora of tools that can potentially revolutionise citizen engagement in legislative processes. However, the focus should not be predominantly on the tools themselves, but rather the people who use them. The early stages of implementing open parliament innovations were characterised by an emphasis on tools, mainly due to the scarcity of effective e-participation platforms. Today, we are equipped with an array of sophisticated tools tailored for lawmaking, like Wiki Ledges and Interactive Hearings, which allow citizens to contribute to draft laws and participate in public hearings directly. Nevertheless, the challenge lies not in the availability of tools but in motivating parliamentarians, legislative officials, and citizens to modify their traditional practices and fully embrace these innovations. Hence, a careful and sensitive approach is required to place people, their acceptance and their involvement, at the core of open parliament initiatives.


Four Pillars of a Successful Open Parliament Implementation


Reflecting on the Brazilian experience, four key conditions emerge as integral to the successful implementation of open parliament innovations.


  1. Pilot Programmes: Initiating controlled experiments or pilots is a crucial first step. These pilots should utilise existing resources and tools while keeping costs minimal. This approach allows for a measured transition and facilitates a learning process, helping parliamentarians, legislative officials, and citizens to acclimatise to the new ways of engagement.
  2. Political Support: Seeking political backing is a vital condition. Support from individuals in leadership positions, such as the Speaker, a committee chairman, or a parliamentarian tasked with drafting a report, can be particularly beneficial. These ‘early adopters’ can act as catalysts, providing crucial endorsement and inspiring others to engage with the innovation.
  3. Mixed Group of Officials: Engaging a diverse group of officials, including technicians from the ICT and communication sectors, lawmakers, and bureaucratic lawyers, is critical. This varied group can play a strategic role in advancing the pilot, alleviating fears among their colleagues about the introduction of e-participation, and ensuring smooth implementation.
  4. Citizen Engagement: The success of open parliament innovations hinges on robust citizen engagement. Parliamentarians are more likely to fully engage if citizens are also actively involved, creating a mutually reinforcing cycle of engagement. Building trust is central to achieving this, and it can be cultivated through careful communication strategies, including setting clear expectations, facilitating continuous feedback from citizens, and providing comprehensive feedback on the results of participation pilots.


Reflections and Forward-Looking Statements


While the journey of implementing open parliament innovations is complex, the experiences from Brazil offer valuable insights and practical strategies that can help navigate this path. These lessons highlight the importance of acknowledging the time it takes for changes to occur, placing people at the forefront of these innovations, and fulfilling four crucial conditions: initiating with controlled pilots, garnering political support, engaging a diverse group of officials, and fostering robust citizen engagement.


However, it is essential to remember that each country’s political and social context is unique. Therefore, these strategies must be adapted to suit the specific circumstances and requirements of each parliament. Nevertheless, the fundamental principles remain the same: respect for the traditional nature of parliaments, focus on people over tools, and commitment to transparency, inclusivity, and engagement.


As we look to the future, open parliament innovations hold great promise for strengthening democratic processes and fostering a more participatory form of governance. These innovations, when implemented effectively, can significantly enhance citizen engagement in legislative processes, thereby fostering a more robust and inclusive democracy. As we continue to navigate this journey, the lessons from Brazil provide a valuable compass to guide our way.


Earning citizens’ trust and ensuring their active engagement is of paramount importance. To foster this trust, the communication around these initiatives should be carefully managed. This involves branding the tools or activities as ‘beta’ or under construction to manage expectations and reduce pressure on both citizens and parliamentarians. Furthermore, it is essential to establish channels for continuous feedback from citizens about their experiences and any issues they encounter with these tools. This feedback not only aids in improving and refining the tools but also makes citizens feel heard and valued.




A significant aspect of citizen engagement is the provision of feedback on their contributions. After the conclusion of the pilot experiment, it is crucial to communicate the results back to the citizens. This feedback can take various forms, such as a report or a draft, and should be made public, for instance, by publishing it on the parliament’s website. One notable practice from the Brazilian House is the way contributions from citizens are handled. The lawmaker in charge of drafting a bill reports to the committee detailing which contributions from citizens were accepted and incorporated into the final draft, and those that were not, explaining why. This practice ensures that citizens feel their contributions were considered seriously, fostering trust and respect even when their suggestions were not incorporated.


This detailed feedback process has another significant benefit: it enhances the transparency of the lawmaking process. It allows citizens to understand how their contributions were evaluated and incorporated, or why they were not, making the process more comprehensible and accessible. This transparency can significantly contribute to increasing citizens’ trust in the parliament and their willingness to participate in future open parliament initiatives.

Support this library and donate

Supporting and donating to this library is more than a contribution; it is a vote for the importance of freely accessible knowledge and a pledge to our shared intellectual growth. Each donation aids in the curation, preservation, and expansion of our resources, ensuring the continued availability of relevant and timely content. It helps us sustain the quality and breadth of our offerings, enabling us to serve our diverse community better. Your contribution signifies your commitment to fostering a vibrant, informed, and connected community, underpinned by the principle of equitable access to knowledge.