Digital transformation strategy for the Legislative in Argentina

Read Bruno Bazzana’s text from Honorable Cámara de Diputados de la Nación Argentina (Argentinian House of Representatives)

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📌 This text is the result of the transcription of the panelist’s participation in Bússola Tech’s event


We began the management of modernisation in the Cámara de Diputado de la Nación Argentina in December, 2019.


We had projects in three lines. One line had to do with the digitalisation of parliamentary work processes. It was a long-term project that sought to dismantle what was done on paper and in person in the Cámara de Diputado de la Nación Argentina. Another line had to do with citizen participation and instances of the possibility of interaction between citizens, civil society organisations and legislators to enhance legislative construction. Third line is in regard to the possibility of continuing to open more information, making it more accessible public information to work for better decisions can be made regarding public policies.


Our plan was modified by the Covid-19 pandemic. We were given a boost by the possibility of proposing these projects so that the operation would be efficient in an active congress to make decisions in this situation that required quick responses. Developing these projects that we had in mind for a long time and promoting them in a short period of time gave us the tools and the possibility to carry them forward and advance on a large scale.


The initial political agreement was to put the system into operation in the Cámara de Diputado de la Nación Argentina, adapting all the actions, measures and tasks to develop a platform with a system, in which difficult MPs could participate in committees and plenary sessions and also present bills remotely.


For this, we developed an operating protocol that establishes the rules of how to carry out the committees and the plenary sessions for the presentation of the bills with the technical team of the Cámara de Diputado de la Nación Argentina. We worked with the teams of programmers, to integrate a video conferencing platform, from Cisco Webex into the protocol. For that we have a system that allows digital remote signature. We registered the digital signature of more than 240 MPs, of the 257 that we have within the Cámara de Diputado de la Nación Argentina.


We developed a system where files can be shared and digitally signed from anywhere. At the same time, two other systems were developed, one for the committees and the other for the plenary sessions. It provides the Clerk a check that is carried out with the national registry of people through the photos that the MPs take on the phone instantly to certify that it is really them. Once they manage to prove through gestures that they really are the MPs that they claim to be, they can participate in the meetings.


In turn, these systems offer the possibility of voting in the sessions, of reading the agendas, of observing which are the other MPs present, that is to say that in a very short time on May 13, 2020 we were holding the first hybrid session in history with a system that worked and evolved over time, and gave us the possibility that the Congress was still active.


This is complemented by the systems for internal administrative and parliamentary work, which also through the use of digital signatures and tools such as Microsoft Teams and others previously developed and updated in this context, made the Cámara de Diputado de la Nación have a year with a lot of activity, which allowed to provide answers to the society that was waiting. Once the remote operation protocol for the Cámara de Diputado de la Nación was approved, 20 sessions were held in a hybrid manner, which allowed the approval of more than 65 bills, 2,203 bills submitted remotely, 293 committee meetings were held hybridly or completely virtual.


It requires the work of a large number of people, but all through virtual or remote participation systems. Many MPs were able to participate from their provinces, which was also important, to be representing the people who at this time needed to have representatives and close responses to what was happening.


In that sense, virtual committees included very interesting processes that took place digitally from start to finish. It doesn’t mean that it is better or worse, it means that there are many issues that can be efficient with the use of new technologies, for example the budget for the year 2021 of the Argentine Nation was discussed in the Cámara de Diputado de la Nación virtually and hybridity, because it was presented through a videoconference press-conference with many MPs assigned to the budget committee.


Then the secretaries, directors and representatives of the Ministry of Economy presented the budget in the different meetings that took place in a hybrid manner. Finally it was discussed, voted and signed through digital means. Once with a vote within the system, with the identification of the MPs through their devices, and the official vote through the device, always complying with all security measures and identity certification, the budget for the year 2021 was approved digitally through the system.


Another very interesting process was the discussion of the law of voluntary interruption of pregnancy, which had been previously debated in the National Congress, but during the pandemic there was a new discussion with a large participation of persons of all positions, from across the Country during committee discussions. This was due to the possibility that in the virtual capacity of videoconferencing systems, experts on the subject could participate remotely, from anywhere in the Country.


Then, the debate and the vote was also through the system that we have developed. The system provided the tools for people to participate, even an MP who was hospitalised, due to Covid-19, could participate from the hospital through the device, providing a speech through the videoconferencing platform.


These situations gave us the tools to consider that we can continue to grow and technology does not replace politics, nor do technological tools dispute the place of debate and face-to-face parliamentary discussion. Rather, they can provide the possibilities and opportunities for a real democratic and egalitarian discussion to take place during the extreme scenarios of the pandemic, but also in other situations that may require that MPs, citizens and experts can be part of the legislative construction.


We are developing our first open-congress action plan in history, which contains five commitments:


  1. I) It establishes an important improvement in the digitalisation of processes, which is already under development and it will ensure that we can connect the parliamentary process digitally from start to finish.


  1. II) Search for equality and gender perspective, representativeness and representation of diversity in the Cámara de Diputado de la Nación.


III) Create an open agenda of MPs of the Cámara de Diputado de la Nación, who can show to citizens what their daily actions are.


  1. IV) Publish more information for the public about the committees through the digitisation process that could also be broadcast by the Argentine cable television channel and also by the Cámara de Diputado de la Nación on YouTube.


  1. V) Promotion of citizen participation. We are preparing a new update of the open law portal, something that opens the bills that the MPs want to present to citizens, who can read it and can express their opinions and even support it.


We made much progress, the pandemic led us to propose much more, but the objective is to continue with this strategy, always to advance the possibility of being a more open congress with even greater citizen participation and communication that allows the participation and being represented from all parts of the country. We continue working on that and we continue adding tools and thinking about how to make the legislative process more effective.


[header image source: unsplash] 

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