About Hellenic Parliament
In today’s rapidly evolving world, parliaments are faced with the challenge of adapting to new technologies and the digital landscape. The concept of “smart parliaments” involves embracing digital transformation to improve legislative, oversight, and communication functions. This essay discusses the current state of parliaments, the challenges they face, and the innovative steps taken towards digital transformation, including the development of legal document standards, open-source tools, and interdisciplinary collaboration.
Challenges faced by parliaments
Parliaments have existed for more than two centuries and have historically relied on paper-based systems for drafting laws and bills. Although digital documents emerged in the 1980s and 1990s, the overall handling of laws has not fundamentally changed. This reliance on traditional methods and approaches has limited the potential for greater efficiency, transparency, and accessibility. The oversight function, particularly parliamentary questions, has also remained relatively unchanged, with written questions following a similar format and process as they have for decades. The persistence of these outdated methods highlights the need for a shift towards digital transformation in order to strengthen and evolve the institution.
The digital transformation of parliaments
In recent years, developments in technology have enabled parliamentary professionals, developers, and scientists to fully digitize parliamentary processes and documents. Two major breakthroughs have played a significant role in this transformation: the development of a legal document standard called Akoma Ntoso, and the creation of an open-source tool called LEOS (Legislation Editing Open Software). Akoma Ntoso breaks down parliamentary documents into distinct, identifiable elements that can be understood and processed by other systems, allowing for the creation of open legal data that can be compared and analyzed. LEOS, on the other hand, is an authoring tool that can be used to write laws, enabling any organization to draft legal documents and adjust the tool to fit its purposes.
Implementing these two elements does not guarantee an easy transition towards a fully digitalized legislative process. Many small and medium-sized parliaments face scarce resources and limited capacity to invest in research and development. One example of overcoming these challenges is the Hellenic Parliament’s interdisciplinary team, the Hellenic OCR team, which brought together volunteers from the private sector, academia, NGOs, and international organizations to develop a proof of concept for the digital transformation of their parliament.
The innovation in the Hellenic OCR team’s approach lies in the fact that they sought external expertise to overcome the lack of in-house knowledge typically found in parliaments. By involving experts from various fields and relying on state-of-the-art standards, they were able to create reusable, open solutions that can be accessed and utilized by citizens, third parties, governments, and other parliaments. The team’s commitment to openness and transparency is reflected in their choice to publish their solutions on GitHub, making them accessible to a wider audience.
Addressing challenges and preparing for the future
The digital transformation of parliaments presents significant challenges, such as a lack of digital skills among parliamentary professionals. To address this, customized courses and training programs need to be developed to help these professionals adapt to the changing landscape and acquire the necessary digital skills. As technology continues to advance at a rapid pace, it becomes increasingly difficult to predict what tools and approaches the future will bring to parliaments. This is why the Hellenic OCR team has initiated a global screening of parliaments’ needs to identify potential future services and develop new tools and solutions accordingly.
The evolution of parliaments towards a smart parliament approach is an essential step in adapting to the digital age. By embracing digital transformation and leveraging innovative approaches, parliaments can improve their legislative, oversight, and communication functions, ultimately strengthening the institution and increasing transparency and accessibility for all stakeholders. The process may be challenging, but the innovative steps taken by organizations like the Hellenic OCR team demonstrate the potential for success.
As we look ahead, it is crucial for parliaments to continue embracing digital technologies and interdisciplinary collaboration. By doing so, they will not only be able to better serve their constituents but also ensure their continued relevance in an increasingly digital world. Continued investment in research and development, as well as skill development for parliamentary professionals, is necessary to enable the smooth adoption of new tools and approaches.
The journey towards a smart parliament is ongoing, and while the future may be unpredictable, the possibilities are limitless. Parliaments that are proactive in their digital transformation efforts will be better equipped to face the challenges of the 21st century and beyond. By harnessing the power of technology and fostering an environment of innovation and collaboration, parliaments can successfully evolve and become more effective, efficient, and transparent institutions.
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