Digital Transformation

5 min

Digital Transformation in the Pan-African Parliament

Pan-African Parliament

Strategic Partners

The Pan-African Parliament (PAP) is a legislative organ of the African Union, with its membership consisting of MPs from across the African continent. As the head of IT for PAP, Jacob has been at the forefront of its digital transformation, navigating the challenges and opportunities presented by the COVID-19 pandemic. This essay explores the key areas where IT has been utilized to support parliamentary practice, along with the challenges faced, and the future of digital transformation within the institution.


The COVID-19 pandemic forced PAP to adapt to new ways of working. Previously, MPs would meet in person in South Africa, but travel restrictions and social distancing measures compelled the institution to find alternative means to conduct its legislative functions. Initially, PAP was able to leverage digital tools such as Zoom for committee meetings and administrative functions. However, legislative functions were more difficult to adapt, as PAP’s rules of procedure did not initially support virtual meetings.


Jacob identified four key areas where IT can support parliamentary practice: legislative effectiveness, visibility of the institution, citizen engagement, and interparliamentary cooperation. He also emphasized the importance of outsourcing infrastructure management to companies like Microsoft and Amazon, which can provide more efficient and secure services.


One of the primary challenges faced by PAP was to upgrade its conferencing facilities to accommodate its multilingual membership. PAP operates in five languages, and without interpretation services, meetings and deliberations cannot take place. Initially, the plan was to upgrade the existing conferencing facilities with new digital systems for paperless electronic voting, biometrics, internet access, and intercoms. However, the pandemic forced PAP to consider additional functionalities, such as support for hybrid meetings.


To address this need, PAP has been working with equipment manufacturers to develop a system that supports hybrid conferencing, allowing remote participants to have the same experience as those attending in person. This solution would enable PAP to continue functioning during lockdowns and travel restrictions.


Another key project undertaken by PAP is the development of an information system to help legislative staff work more effectively. This system would enable staff to create and manage documents in XML-based formats, making it easier to track outputs and align them with specific goals and policies.


PAP is also working on establishing an open data portal, which will provide access to its products and work seamlessly with the parliamentary information system. This portal will facilitate the automatic publishing of documents in open formats.


Additionally, PAP is exploring the use of technology to improve its verbatim reporting and translation services. This includes automatic speech-to-text technology that accounts for the multilingual nature of the institution, as well as AI-backed systems for automatic translation between languages. Data visualization and analytics tools are also being considered to help MPs in their oversight roles, enabling them to make informed decisions based on robust data analysis.


As the continental parliament, PAP seeks to work with African parliaments to develop and enhance the adoption of these technologies, share skills and experiences, and become a center of excellence. However, the institution faces challenges, particularly in terms of costs related to infrastructure and collaboration with academia.


In conclusion, the COVID-19 pandemic has accelerated the digital transformation of the Pan-African Parliament, forcing it to adapt to new ways of working and leveraging technology to ensure the continuity of its legislative functions. As PAP continues to explore and implement innovative solutions, it will undoubtedly play a crucial role in shaping the digital future of parliamentary practice across the African continent.

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