Senado Federal do Brasil
The Interlegis program, sponsored by the School of Government of the Brazilian Senate, is an outreach initiative focused on promoting integration, modernization, and transparency in state and local legislatures in Brazil. Established over 20 years ago, Interlegis initially aimed to provide computers and internet access to these legislatures. However, in the last 10 years, the program has shifted its focus towards developing open-source software to facilitate transparency, integration, and modernization in all levels of the Brazilian federation.
Digital transformation is a critical aspect of Interlegis’ core business, particularly in addressing the challenges posed to Brazil’s legislative bodies. Firstly, there is an increasing need for transparency in Brazil, and while digital transformation does not necessarily imply transparency, having a digital environment for the legislative process makes it easier to adopt transparency policies. Secondly, as the number of staffers in congress and civil service decreases, digital transformation can help develop more efficient procedures for both administrative and legislative tasks. Thirdly, as the scope of legislative mandates becomes increasingly dependent on the digital public sphere, digital transformation can help representatives perform their everyday tasks more efficiently. Lastly, managing a vast number of documents can be more sustainable and secure if moved to a digital environment.
Interlegis has developed several products to address these challenges. The SAPL (Sistema de Apoio ao Processo Legislativo) is a system designed to track the legislative process, allowing citizens and legislators to access relevant information in real-time. This is particularly important for smaller cities in Brazil that may lack robust IT infrastructure. The program also offers a customizable website, allowing legislators to share basic information on rules, legislative schedules, committees, and legislation. This supports Brazilian law’s emphasis on “active transparency.”
In addition to these products, Interlegis offers e-Democracia (e-democracy), a software developed by the lower house of the Brazilian Congress that allows real interaction with the legislative process, such as posing questions during public hearings or suggesting new provisions in a bill. The Senate’s IT infrastructure hosts many of these products, offering cost-effective and secure solutions to local legislators.
The Local Legislatures Landscape, another product developed by Interlegis, allows for easy access to basic information on each of Brazil’s 5,500 cities and their legislatures. It also enables comparisons between similar cities, providing insights into various aspects such as economic growth, staff education levels, and demographic information.
Interlegis is currently working on a system to enable paper-free legislatures for those using SAPL and other products. They plan to develop the software collaboratively with other IT departments from different local legislatures, emphasizing open-source and open-data initiatives.
While Interlegis has made significant strides in digital transformation, challenges remain. The traditional model of running IT policies and solutions in the civil service in Brazil, which relies on hiring specialized permanent staff, has reached its limits due to high demand and staff shortages. Thus, Interlegis is exploring alternative approaches, including partnerships and continued development of open-source and open-data software.
In conclusion, digital transformation is a crucial aspect of Interlegis’ goals, but it should not be allowed to replace legislative deliberation or representative democracy with uninformed direct democracy based on likes and instantaneous reactions. Instead, the focus should be on stimulating participatory democracy through meaningful interactions between civil society and legislative debates. By doing so, public opinion and institutionalized deliberation can work together to improve the legislative process in Brazil.
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