The Brazilian Federal Senate's Pioneering Effort in Remote Deliberation during the Covid-19 Pandemic

About Senado Federal of Brazil

Strategic Partners

Written on September, 2020




The Covid-19 pandemic brought about unprecedented changes in the way organizations functioned across the globe. The Brazilian Federal Senate was no exception. This essay delves into the successful implementation of the world’s first remote deliberation systems in the Brazilian Federal Senate and how it enabled the continuation of legislative work during the pandemic.


Background and Initial Response:


As the Covid-19 pandemic spread, the Brazilian Senate House responded by devising acts and rules aimed at facilitating remote work and preventing the spread of the virus on its premises. The introduction of a remote deliberation system (SDR) allowed for the continuation of the legislative process. In March 2020, the Senate’s information technology (IT) team received three requests: to develop a remote deliberation solution, to facilitate teleworking, and to create a screening application to monitor the health of those entering the Federal Senate.


Remote Voting Solutions and Video Conferencing:


The Senate adopted two remote voting solutions—one for plenary sessions and one for committees. For video conferencing, the Senate chose Zoom due to its flexibility and compatibility with various devices, and the platform’s ability to control speech time. This allowed senators to participate in remote sessions, even when facing connection problems or while in transit, using the audio conferencing feature.


Adapting Information Systems:


The IT team had to adapt existing legislative information systems to accommodate the new remote work environment, particularly those handling digital documentation from parliamentarians. The Senate’s physical plenary floor was deactivated, and the virtual plenary sessions were held in the IT secretariat’s networking operations center. This location ensured proper social distancing and allowed for easier access to technical support.


The First Remote Session:


The first remote session took place just a week after the initial IT meeting, with only the President in the virtual plenary. The Senate successfully tested the remote voting system, supporting all 81 senators. Manuals and video tutorials were provided to help the senators adjust to the new remote system.


Remote Voting System and Security:


The existing remote voting system was repurposed to accommodate remote sessions via Zoom. The voting panel, already in use, was incorporated into the application. Voting took place in a secure environment with multifactor authentication, including password, photo, and SMS. The IT team followed Zoom’s recommendations for secure meetings and created a specific network domain for Senate meetings.


Results and Legacy:


Between March 20, 2020, and September 15, 2020, the Senate held 63 remote sessions, deliberated on 95 proposals, and had 528 proposals under discussion. The remote sessions proved to be as productive as pre-pandemic times. The largest challenge was the short time frame, with the Senate transitioning to complete remote work within a week.


The Brazilian Federal Senate garnered international recognition as the first parliament to deliberate remotely. This success led to the creation of a manual to share knowledge and technology with other international parliaments. The implementation of remote deliberation systems in the Brazilian Federal Senate revealed the power of cooperation in overcoming challenges and allowed for greater flexibility and simultaneity for senators.




The Brazilian Federal Senate’s groundbreaking implementation of remote deliberation systems in response to the Covid-19 pandemic highlights the resilience and adaptability of legislative bodies when faced with unprecedented challenges. By swiftly adopting new technologies, adjusting workflows, and fostering a culture of collaboration and innovation, the Senate managed to maintain productivity and continuity in their legislative duties.


The Senate’s experience serves as an invaluable case study and inspiration for other legislative bodies worldwide, demonstrating that remote work can be effectively integrated into traditionally in-person environments. The successful transition to remote deliberation during the pandemic has also opened doors for further exploration of how such systems can enhance accessibility, flexibility, and efficiency in legislative processes in the future.


The Senate’s ability to overcome significant obstacles in a short period is a testament to the importance of strong leadership and a dedicated IT team. Their experience highlights the need for organizations to prioritize digital transformation, invest in technology infrastructure, and develop robust contingency plans for potential crises.


Furthermore, the Brazilian Federal Senate’s remote deliberation system showcases the positive impact of international cooperation and knowledge-sharing. By creating a manual to guide other parliaments in implementing similar systems, the Senate contributed to the global response to the pandemic, fostering a sense of solidarity among nations.


In conclusion, the Brazilian Federal Senate’s pioneering efforts in implementing remote deliberation systems during the Covid-19 pandemic emphasize the power of innovation, cooperation, and adaptability in overcoming adversity. As the world continues to evolve and embrace new technological solutions, legislative bodies and organizations can draw upon the lessons learned from the Brazilian Federal Senate’s experience to navigate future challenges and promote more efficient and flexible work environments.

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