Senado Federal of Brazil
Written on September, 2020
The Covid-19 pandemic brought unprecedented challenges to every aspect of life, including the functioning of democratic institutions. In Brazil, the Interlegis program played a crucial role in promoting interparliamentary cooperation among subnational legislative houses, ensuring the continuity of legislative activities during these trying times. This essay will discuss how the Interlegis program facilitated the modernization and integration of Brazilian legislatures using innovative technologies, and how these efforts contributed to the strengthening of democracy and citizen participation during the pandemic.
Interlegis Program: History and Objectives
Established in 1997 by the Brazilian Senate House, the Interlegis program aimed to modernise and integrate Brazilian legislatures by leveraging the power of technology. The program’s mission was to disseminate knowledge and transfer technology to state legislatures and city councils, thereby promoting efficient and transparent administrative and legislative activities. The ultimate goal was to facilitate citizens’ access to the work carried out by these institutions and strengthen democracy.
Technological Innovations During the Pandemic
When the Covid-19 pandemic hit, the Interlegis team quickly adapted to the new reality, implementing technological innovations that allowed legislative houses to continue parliamentary activities virtually. One such innovation was the Support System for the Remote Legislative Process (SAPLR, in Portuguese), which enabled remote deliberations and committee meetings. The videoconference solution for remote sessions, inspired by the Brazilian Senate House’s use of Zoom, was also made available for free to state legislatures and city councils.
Tools for Remote Legislative Activities
To facilitate remote voting, the Interlegis program chose to use the Support System for the Legislative Process (SAPL, in Portuguese) and Jitsi Meet platform for virtual meetings. SAPLR, the integration of Jitsi Meet and SAPL, provided various technological tools to over 1,200 of the 5,595 subnational legislative houses in Brazil. These tools included electronic panel voting, agenda registration, legislative proposal management, attendance lists, and the compilation of legal rules.
Transparency and Security
The remote sessions could be broadcast on YouTube and Facebook, maintaining the same levels of transparency as before the pandemic. To ensure data security, the SAPLR system offered session privacy, transmission encryption, and password-protected access to meeting rooms. Additionally, SAPL was hosted in the Brazilian Senate House’s data center and received the same security treatment as other internal systems.
Training and Implementation
From April to September 2020, Interlegis trained around 420 public servants from 227 city councils and state legislatures in remote workshops for SAPLR usage. By September 2020, more than 48% of these houses had already conducted remote plenary sessions, while another 50% had begun using the system.
The Interlegis program’s efforts during the Covid-19 pandemic demonstrate the power of technology in strengthening democracy and promoting citizen participation. By offering practical and intelligent solutions, the Brazilian Senate House ensured that legislative activities continued, bringing citizens closer to their representatives during difficult times. The work of Interlegis has ultimately contributed to the resilience and vibrancy of Brazilian democracy, even in the face of adversity.
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