National Assembly of Zambia
Written on September, 2020
The global Covid-19 pandemic has compelled institutions across the world to adapt and embrace new ways of working. One such institution is the National Assembly of Zambia, which has taken proactive measures to ensure the continuity of legislative business in the face of unprecedented challenges. In this essay, we will explore the innovative solutions that the National Assembly of Zambia has implemented and discuss the lessons that other parliaments can learn from their experience.
Amending the Standing Orders
The first step in adapting to the Covid-19 pandemic was the amendment of the National Assembly of Zambia’s standing orders. This critical change allowed the assembly to function in a hybrid format, combining physical presence with remote participation, while adhering to Covid-19 guidelines. This swift action paved the way for the establishment of a hybrid system for continuing parliamentary business.
Developing and Implementing eChamber
In response to the need for a system to facilitate remote parliamentary business, the National Assembly of Zambia’s Information and Technology team developed an in-house application called eChamber in May 2020. This innovative application integrates various systems, including Zoom for videoconferencing, the Bosch Public Address System, and several other custom-built applications. eChamber streamlines member registration, raising points of order, indicating a desire to speak, and voting processes, ensuring a seamless experience for members of parliament.
Enhancing Infrastructure and Training
The National Assembly of Zambia also took necessary measures to upgrade its data center and internet broadband to accommodate increased video traffic and ensure a smooth experience for remote participants. Members of parliament received tablets for the first time, allowing them to fully utilize digital resources and access a repository of parliamentary documents. To prepare members for the new system, the assembly provided extensive training on virtual meeting platforms, such as Zoom and eChamber.
Challenges and Lessons Learned
Despite the many achievements in implementing remote deliberation, the National Assembly of Zambia faced several challenges, including initial resistance and apprehension from members, virtual meeting etiquette, and a tight implementation schedule. The assembly addressed these challenges through strong leadership, continuous training, and iterative improvements to the system. Involving members and staff in the review of systems prior to deployment proved to be an effective strategy for ensuring success.
The National Assembly of Zambia’s experience in adapting to the Covid-19 pandemic demonstrates the importance of embracing innovation and overcoming challenges in order to maintain the continuity of legislative business. By developing and implementing the eChamber application, upgrading infrastructure, and providing extensive training, the assembly was able to ensure a seamless transition to a hybrid format. Other parliaments can learn from Zambia’s proactive approach and commitment to innovation as they too navigate the challenges posed by the global pandemic.
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