Parliament of Sierra Leone
Written on January, 2023
Digital transformation represents a revolutionary shift in operational modes of businesses and organisations, incorporating digital technology into all areas, thus fundamentally altering how they operate and deliver value. A significant domain where this transformation is increasingly evident is within governmental structures, particularly parliamentary systems. This essay delves into the ongoing digital transformation in the Parliament of Sierra Leone, a process committed to enhancing efficiency, transparency, and public participation. This case study will discuss the major achievements, the challenges encountered, and the strategies devised to surmount these hurdles in this transformative journey.
The Onset of the Digital Transformation Journey
The Parliament of Sierra Leone has been resolute in its quest for digital transformation, displaying an unwavering commitment to evolving its traditional operational systems. The cornerstone of this transformation has been the implementation of the e-polimate system, a comprehensive digital system designed to streamline the administrative and legislative activities across various departments and offices. The primary motivation behind this shift has been to enhance efficiency, significantly reduce manual labour, and elevate the quality of parliamentary work.
The acceptance of internal administrative processes has been heartening, with an 85% acceptance rate reported, which illustrates the successful transition from traditional to digital processes. This transition’s success is attributable to regular online surveys conducted since 2017, aimed at gathering feedback and ensuring the transition process aligns with the staff’s needs and preferences.
Within the legislative realm, the Parliament has initiated the development of digital e-books and proceeding systems, designed to automate and digitise the legislative process. Although the bill automation system’s full implementation remains in progress, the initial response to these digital systems has been encouraging, with a 60% acceptance rate. The goal for 2023 is to fully roll out all features of the bill automation system, enabling real-time tracking of a bill’s stages and enhancing the legislative process’s transparency.
Navigating Challenges and Devising Solutions
The road to digital transformation is often fraught with challenges, and the Parliament of Sierra Leone is no exception. A significant obstacle involves the need to update and revise the internal rules, particularly the standing order, to accommodate the digital processes. The standing order, which outlines the rules of procedure for Parliament operations, was last revised in 2006 and reflects an era when operations were primarily manual and required physical presence.
To fully materialise a paperless, e-parliament, there is an imperative need to review and revise the standing order. This would involve incorporating provisions for digital attendance, participation, logging, and quorum. With these provisions in place, members of Parliament could contribute more efficiently, and the parliamentary business could continue unimpeded even in the face of unforeseen circumstances, such as a pandemic.
Human resource management also presents challenges, with some members of Parliament and staff resisting the shift from traditional to digital systems. However, the majority support for digital transformation is expected to gradually alleviate these concerns. The Parliament is determined to ensure these issues do not impede the progress of digital transformation, fostering an environment conducive to digitalization and adherence to procedural rules.
With an eye on the potential cybersecurity threats that accompany digitalization, the Parliament has prioritised cybersecurity in its departmental plan and operational plan. As part of this initiative, the Parliament is reviewing its ICT policy and revising its Parliamentary strategy plan to effectively address cybercrime and cybersecurity issues, thereby safeguarding the integrity of the digital systems.
Enhancing Transparency and Participation
One of the most significant achievements of the digital transformation process has been the increased transparency and public participation. The Parliament has effectively utilised an interactive dynamic website, various social media platforms, and a mobile app to disseminate parliamentary information to the public in real-time.
These digital platforms have not only enhanced the Parliament’s accessibility but also facilitated increased public engagement. For instance, the Parliament’s Facebook page has reportedly garnered 23k users, reflecting the widespread acceptance of these digital platforms. Additionally, the Parliament’s proactive approach to collecting and addressing feedback has further reinforced public trust and engagement.
Under the Open Government Partnership (OGP), the Parliament of Sierra Leone has also made significant strides in ensuring transparency, accountability, and openness. These efforts have garnered international recognition, with the Parliament securing a commendable second place in the OGP’s analysis for using transparency and accountability measures. Additionally, an 82% rating for open data solutions, as per both internal analysis and OGP statistics, further testifies to the effectiveness of the digital transformation in fostering an open and accountable parliamentary system.
In order to further enhance citizen participation, the Parliament has also launched several participatory solutions, including opinion polls, social media handles, and live streaming of parliamentary proceedings. Through these initiatives, the Parliament has ensured that the public can actively engage in the legislative process and voice their opinions, thereby promoting a more participatory democratic system.
Despite the challenges, the Parliament of Sierra Leone remains steadfast in its commitment to digital transformation, demonstrating an admirable resilience in the face of obstacles. The Parliament’s strategy involves a comprehensive approach that focuses not only on implementing advanced technologies but also on addressing human resource issues and cybersecurity concerns.
While the digital transformation journey in the Parliament of Sierra Leone is still in progress, the achievements so far serve as a testament to the potential benefits of incorporating digital technology into legislative processes. The Parliament’s successful transition to a digital system provides a blueprint for other parliaments looking to undertake a similar digital transformation journey.
The digital transformation journey in the Parliament of Sierra Leone illustrates how the effective incorporation of digital technology can significantly enhance efficiency, transparency, and public participation in legislative processes. While the road to digital transformation presents several challenges, the Parliament’s strategic approach to navigating these hurdles offers valuable insights for other governmental institutions embarking on a similar journey. Through its commitment to digital transformation, the Parliament of Sierra Leone is not only reshaping its own operational systems but also contributing to the broader narrative on the role of digital technology in enhancing democratic processes.
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