The Digital Transformation of the Legislative Process in Nova Friburgo's City Council: Advantages, Challenges, and Strategies

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Subtitle: Embracing Technology for Enhanced Legislative Transparency and Efficiency


In the era of the digital revolution, the legislative process, forming the cornerstone of democracy, is undergoing a significant transformation. The shift towards a digital legislative process is a global trend, but this essay will focus specifically on the Nova Friburgo City Council in the state of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. The narrative will explore the benefits of this transformation, the costs associated with its implementation, and strategies to overcome potential barriers, as outlined by Silvia Rosch, a city hall worker.


Advantages of the Digital Legislative Process


The digitalisation of the legislative process offers several benefits. One of the most significant advantages is enhanced transparency. With digital systems, anyone interested can follow the progress of legislative processes, potentially leading to increased popular participation. Furthermore, the efficiency of the process is increased as all parliamentary committees can review each project simultaneously. The probability of errors also decreases with the standardisation of workflows and documents. The risk of data loss is mitigated, and the processing speed is increased, further improving the efficiency of the legislative process.


Challenges and Costs of Implementation


However, the digital transformation of the legislative process also brings challenges and costs. Scaling up the IT infrastructure is necessary to ensure data security, which involves a significant financial investment. Moreover, preparation and training for all people within the organisation is required, and strategies need to be developed to deal with cultural resistance to change, which is a substantial non-financial cost and should not be underestimated.


Strategies for Implementing Change


John Carter’s 8-step model for leading change offers a useful guide for implementing the necessary transformations. The model comprises three phases. The first phase involves creating a climate for change and establishing a shared understanding of the task ahead. The second phase is engaging the employees and enabling them to affect change. The final phase involves implementing and sustaining the change in the organisation.


Contextual Challenges in Brazilian Municipalities


In Brazil, more than 5,000 municipalities exist, each with its own city council. The size of these councils and the number of councillors depends on the population of the municipality. This vast variation in institutional size means that the digital transformation capacity of these legislative houses is limited.


However, assistance has been provided since 2006 by the federal state through the Interlegis Program, which helped Brazilian legislative houses modernise. This programme equipped legislative houses with necessary IT infrastructure and created a virtual community for Brazilian legislators. Moreover, it offered software projects and promoted more effective citizen participation. The Covid-19 pandemic in 2020 brought a new focus on remote activities, and systems were adapted for remote deliberation. Online courses and lectures also increased, helping to prepare employees for the digital transition.


Applying Carter’s Steps to the Nova Friburgo Context


In applying Carter’s steps to the Nova Friburgo context, the initial phase involves creating a sense of urgency and demonstrating that the cost of change is less than the cost of maintaining the status quo. This can be achieved by investigating the institution’s image through public opinion polls. Forming a guiding coalition and creating a vision for change are also crucial at this stage.


Engaging the employees, the second phase of Carter’s model, requires excellent communication strategies. Barriers should be removed, and those open to change should be empowered to act as multipliers, helping their peers understand and adapt to the transformation.


The third phase, sustaining the change, requires ongoing progress and the creation of regulations to ensure the change transcends legislative periods. It’s essential to demonstrate that the sacrifices and changes are worth it and success is possible.


Conclusion: Investing in People for a Successful Digital Transformation


The digital transformation of the legislative process is not solely dependent on the technology involved. In fact, it relies significantly on the people involved and the leadership exercised within the organisation. Given the technological evolution of Brazilian legislative houses, there is a favourable environment for digital transformation. However, to ensure this transformation occurs, it is vital to invest in people.


Working towards improving local political leadership is critical. The technical staff of the municipal councils are already seeking to enhance their skills through legislative schools and other educational institutions in public administration. However, as qualified as these individuals may be, little can be achieved without prepared leaders.

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