Digital Transformation

5 min

Embracing Digital Transformation in the Chilean Chamber of Deputies Amidst the Pandemic

Cámara de Diputadas y Diputados of Chile

Written on September, 2020

Strategic Partners

Introduction: Adapting to the Pandemic

 

The COVID-19 pandemic has forced many institutions worldwide to rethink and reshape the way they operate. In Chile, the Chamber of Deputies had to adapt swiftly to continue its legislative functions while ensuring the safety of its members. This essay discusses the development and implementation of a Remote Deliberation System, detailing the challenges faced and the solutions found to ensure the continuity of parliamentary operations. This process required not only legal and regulatory changes but also the implementation of new technologies and systems.

 

Goals: Maintaining Continuity and Transparency

 

The primary goal of the Remote Deliberation System was to maintain the continuity of the Chamber of Deputies’ operations during the pandemic. This was achieved by focusing on three main parliamentary functions: debate, voting, and the proposition of documents. The system aimed to preserve the existing parliamentary culture and ensure that any changes made would maintain the same levels of transparency as before the pandemic. This meant that any remote or hybrid sessions needed to be conducted in a manner that was just as open and accessible as traditional in-person sessions.

 

Legal Modifications: Updating the Constitution and Laws

 

To achieve the goals of continuity and transparency, several modifications were necessary, especially concerning parliamentary functions. The constitution and constitutional organic law of the national congress had to be amended to redefine operational aspects, allowing for remote participation by deputies. These amendments removed previous restrictions that required physical presence for participation in parliamentary activities. By allowing remote participation, the Chamber of Deputies could maintain its functions while adapting to the new reality imposed by the pandemic.

 

Digital Infrastructure: Facilitating Remote Participation

 

Digital infrastructure played a crucial role in addressing the challenges brought about by the pandemic. From April 21st to September 15th, 2020, the Chamber held 54 remote and hybrid sessions, ensuring that deputies could participate both physically and remotely. To achieve this, several technological implementations were made, such as installing TVs inside the session room to allow deputies present to see their remote colleagues. Additionally, the Chamber needed to assure deputies that their speeches would be broadcasted and accessible, regardless of their location.

 

Remote Debate: Utilizing Existing Digital Tools

 

For remote debate, the Chamber took advantage of existing digital tools, like the “room work” tool, which had already been in use for over a decade. This tool allowed deputies to access digitalized documents, such as reports and bills, prior to the sessions. By connecting this tool to the internet, remote deputies could access the same resources as their in-person counterparts, while security mechanisms and authentication validation ensured data integrity. This adaptation allowed the Chamber to maintain the debate function seamlessly, without the need for significant infrastructural changes.

 

Remote Voting: Developing a Robust Electronic System

 

The Chamber was fortunate to have an existing electronic voting system, which was adapted for remote implementation in response to the pandemic. The secure, user-friendly voting application allowed deputies to vote remotely, while exceptions were handled through integration with Zoom. The system consolidated votes from both remote and in-person participants, providing a final result within minutes. This remote voting system required the development of an encrypted web API for secure communication and the implementation of additional regulatory measures, such as requiring deputies to have their video cameras on during voting.

 

Virtual Office: Implementing a Platform for Document Submission

 

As a result of the pandemic, the Chamber implemented a virtual office, a platform where deputies could submit various types of documents, from proposals to medical leave requests. This platform enabled deputies to present documents regardless of their location, offering them a level of convenience that was previously unavailable. Between April and September 2020, 1,005 documents were submitted through this platform, demonstrating its success and convenience for deputies. The digitalization of document submission streamlined parliamentary processes and improved efficiency, providing a valuable tool for the future.

 

Conclusion: Learning from the Pandemic

 

The COVID-19 pandemic has presented significant challenges for institutions worldwide, but it has also driven innovation and change. The Chilean Chamber of Deputies successfully adapted its operations through digital transformation, enabling remote participation and maintaining the continuity of parliamentary functions. By embracing new technologies, such as Zoom and the custom-developed voting application, the Chamber was able to conduct remote and hybrid sessions that preserved the essential functions of debate, voting, and document submission.

 

These new systems and dynamics will likely continue to benefit the institution in the future, even after the pandemic has subsided. The experience gained from developing and implementing the Remote Deliberation System can serve as a foundation for further improvements and innovations in parliamentary processes. As digital technologies continue to advance, institutions like the Chilean Chamber of Deputies can use these lessons learned to stay at the forefront of modernization and better serve their constituents.

 

Ultimately, the Chilean Chamber of Deputies’ experience demonstrates the importance of adaptability and the potential benefits of embracing new technologies. By learning from this challenging period and continuing to innovate, institutions worldwide can create more resilient and effective systems for the future.

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