National Asssembly of Zambia
The COVID-19 pandemic has had a significant impact on the way countries conduct their parliamentary business. With the rapid spread of the virus and the resulting restrictions on gatherings, parliaments around the world have been forced to adapt to new ways of operating. One such example is the National Assembly of Zambia, which has undergone a digital transformation to ensure its members can continue their legislative duties amidst the pandemic.
The National Assembly of Zambia is constitutionally required to hold three parliamentary sessions per year. However, due to the pandemic, the traditional methods of conducting these sessions were no longer feasible. As a result, a locally-developed digital platform was created to replicate the physical chamber experience and facilitate the continued functioning of the assembly.
The platform has multiple functionalities, including attendance and registration for members of parliament. This electronic registration system helps track members’ attendance and allowances, as well as determine which members are present or absent during sessions. The platform also allows members to indicate their desire to speak during debates, which places them on a list of speakers in a first-come, first-served order.
One of the key features of parliamentary debate is the ability for members to raise points of order against their colleagues. This digital platform has incorporated this aspect, enabling members to raise points of order electronically. The presiding officer, or speaker, can then view and address these points accordingly.
Voting is another critical aspect of parliamentary business, and the platform includes a provision for electronic voting. In cases where there is contention on an issue, members can call for a division vote. The platform allows at least 12 members to electronically signal their intention for a division, after which the presiding officer can initiate the voting process. Members can then cast their votes electronically by choosing “yes,” “no,” or “abstain.”
Document sharing is another essential feature of the platform. Members can access and share important documents such as agendas, motions, reports, standing orders, and even the constitution through the digital application. This ensures that all necessary information is readily available to members during parliamentary sessions.
The platform, dubbed “e-Chamber,” has been made available on the Apple Store as a beta test for members to download and use on their tablets. In addition to the e-Chamber application, the National Assembly of Zambia also uses video conferencing software like Zoom for remote participation and communication among members.
The digital transformation of Zambia’s National Assembly has been successful in ensuring that parliamentary business can continue despite the challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic. By developing and implementing a comprehensive digital platform, the assembly has been able to maintain its constitutional obligations and adapt to the changing circumstances. Furthermore, the e-Chamber application has streamlined various aspects of parliamentary processes, making it easier for members to access documents and participate in debates and voting.
In conclusion, the National Assembly of Zambia’s digital transformation serves as an inspiring example of how parliaments worldwide can adapt to the challenges presented by global crises like COVID-19. By embracing technology and innovative solutions, legislative bodies can ensure that they continue to function effectively and fulfill their crucial roles in democratic societies.
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