Digital Transformation

5 min

Embracing Remote Deliberations in the Novo Hamburgo City Council amid the Pandemic

Câmara Municipal de Novo Hamburgo | Brazil

Written on September, 2020

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The COVID-19 pandemic has forced a reassessment of traditional ways of conducting legislative processes. This essay examines the remote deliberation experience of the City Council of Novo Hamburgo in Brazil. Through the use of innovative tools and training, the council has effectively transitioned to a remote working environment, ensuring continuity in governance and setting an example for future transformation.


Adapting to the Pandemic


The Novo Hamburgo City Council initially struggled with the arrival of the pandemic in the southern region of Brazil. As the severity of the situation increased, it became necessary to adopt a different strategy from holding in-person sporadic sessions. Fortunately, the IT director had conducted tests for a new remote deliberation product, setting the stage for the council’s transition to remote work.


Transition to Remote Deliberations


To comply with legal requirements, the council issued a legislative act to adopt the remote deliberation system. The Support System for the Legislative Process (SAPL) provided by the Interlegis program of the Brazilian Senate House had been in use since 2008, making the transition smoother. Council sessions were already broadcast live on TV Câmara and YouTube, with electronic voting implemented in 2019. This pre-existing infrastructure facilitated the remote deliberation process and enabled participation of municipal secretaries via videoconference.


Training and Technological Integration


In April 2020, the council conducted its first remote deliberation test with the governing council using the SAPL-R tool provided by the Brazilian Senate House. Training of civil servants and councillors was conducted in partnership with the Interlegis program. Councillors received a video tutorial on using the Jitsi Meet application, which is integrated with SAPL to form SAPL-R.


Overcoming Challenges


Many councillors had never used virtual meeting applications before, highlighting the cultural challenge of adopting new technologies. Despite this, councillors were open to change and willing to adapt. The IT team approved the use of Jitsi Meet due to its free access, high integration with SAPL, and absence of user limits or meeting duration restrictions. The council held its first remote session on July 20, 2020, with subsequent sessions conducted both remotely and in-person.


Looking Forward


While the Novo Hamburgo City Council has made significant progress, some aspects of digitization remain incomplete, such as the absence of electronic signatures on all documents. However, the technological infrastructure and training developed during the pandemic can continue to be used in the future to enhance transparency and save public resources.




The experience of the Novo Hamburgo City Council demonstrates the importance of embracing cultural change and prioritising technology. Long-term planning should focus on incorporating digitization, electronic signatures, and collaborative networking to improve legislative processes. The council’s experience can serve as a valuable lesson for other legislative bodies adapting to the evolving demands of the 21st century.

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