Digital transformation strategy for the Legislative in the Brazilian Federal Senate

Read Alessandro Albuquerque’s text from Brazilian Federal Senate regarding his participation in the LegisTech Series

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


In this article, I will talk about the digital transformation in the Federal Senate of Brazil. First, we should try to understand the meaning of digital transformation, which is the application of information technology in the work process. It’s expected that digital transformation projects are drastic and disruptive at an extreme level, but I understand that is not it. 


A classical case of digital transformation would be instead of someone filling out the form in PDF, in an electronic document. If you receive a notification in your mobile, in which you can, for example, approve the vacation for an employee through voice commands, via a chatbot: “Do you want to approve the vacation? Yes or no?”, that’s it, it’s done. Your own voice is the signature of that authorisation. The employee could have asked for the request in the workplace solution, for example, “I want to request a vacation”, then the machine asks “what is the period?” and so forth. This is digital transformation itself. 


There are simpler things that can be understood that way too. For example, a department that is using worksheets for the organisation of work and they call the technology team and they offer an information system that registers that database. Even though it’s a simple process, there was a digital transformation in that scenario. It doesn’t need to be something extremely revolutionary. 


I say that we’ve been doing the transformation for years, because it requires investments at different levels, so that we can achieve projects and the delivery of the boldest products. The information technology area in the Senate, which is called the Data Processing Centre of the Federal Senate – PRODASEN – is very old. It was born at the beginning of computing, or shortly after the beginning, approximately in 1972, and it was born with the concern for innovation and transforming the Senate digitally. 


In the 70s, there was basically no computing in an office nor in Parliament and it was already visionary at that time to exchange things on paper, although these processes (on paper) existed for many years for screens, even if they were those black screens and green letters. That gave an organised, listed information that grew in a memory that was no longer the human one. It allowed commands that on paper were very difficult to do and it also allowed for a basic thing that today is trivial, the ability to search for information and find your answer is much more than a mere sentence. The search result shows a full encyclopedia in your hand. The Senate IT department developed solutions that allowed the user to search for the name of a law or a proposal. For that time, it was already fantastic. That was already a digital transformation.


Coming back from that time to the remote deliberation system of today, when we look from a professional and even conservative IT point of view, this is the result of investments in IT by the Senate over many years. The Parliament needs to have a resilient data centre, either if it’s on-premises or in the cloud. There is also the need to execute and maintain the cloud contracts that keep your data centre online, making investments in computer networks and protecting links with the internet against attacks, such as the famous denial of service (DDOS). For that, you have to be concerned about putting investments in security support and incident handling centres in your contract. 


It’s all an investment in technology that ends up being the basis of traditional information systems, such as team management, asset management, and processing of documents in the legislative process. 


There is also a very important investment in human capital, in training IT professionals, recruitment of skilled personnel, who find these technology platforms and investments ready for these projects to happen. 


The remote deliberation system was possible for this reason, because there are professionals in our team capable of, for example, prospecting, comparing and selecting a videoconference tool that best suits the reality and the dynamics of a Parliament to deliberate in a remote reality. Our team develops solutions, including the voting application, but we also have business partners for this. We are responsible for the committees, while, in the plenary is the responsibility of the contracted company. 


We need to know how to go to the supplier and correctly specify the demand, such as the need for a qualified professional to assess the security of the solutions, and integrate them with the videoconference in the cloud. We chose the platform Zoom, although we have considered comparing others in regard to its security and its connection to our data center, amongst others. 


Remote voting is also an application, partially running in the cloud, so we have to ensure that there is a secure connection, from the cloud to the on-site dimension. It’s a collection of skilled people with technology at the Senate’s disposal that makes this kind of thing happen.


Bringing other perspectives for the Senate’s digital transformation, we have, for example, a fully electronic administrative process, as a consequence of investment made years ago. Someone can imagine that transforming paper into an electronic document is a commonplace, it already exists, since the first digitisation was in the ’50s. That’s true. There is the digital transformation of that sector, that community of users, that company and that public agency. For the Senate, in 2015, it was a digital transformation. The digital transformation of 2015 bore results in 2020 and in 2021. 


Imagine, how could thousands of people be able to work with paperless processes, if the Senate hadn’t passed through this transformation? And how could we give a quick response to such a complex situation during Covid-19? It was already a prior investment to convert some processes that were in the physical world for the digital world, acquire solutions to show the documents, organise the transit of the electronic documentation and provide training to everyone. 


These are small investments or large investments that embed the digital transformation. The IT professional, when specifying and designing a solution, thinks about the capabilities and the possibilities of that solution, even in this remote dimension. 


Even before the pandemic, we had already studied, invested, acquired, installed and configured collaboration tools in the Senate House that provide video calling, video conferencing, file exchange and organisation of virtual teams. 


That’s what has to be clear, that digital transformation is possible, if you are prepared. The House has to be prepared. The organisation, where IT is inserted, has to see technology as a strategic asset that needs investments and governance and it needs to be seen as a strategic tool for managers, not for IT manager, but for the manager who is managing issues involving IT. 


The digital transformation of the Senate is based on investments, on good management, planning, in governance, in partnerships, in strategic ways to vary the form of delivery. I can’t just depend on my own staff, I need to look at the market, and see what it offers and invest in outsourcing. It is leadership management in IT, which makes organizations move forward. Leadership and management personnel need a highly qualified team at its side. 


There are sets of human efforts that provide this type of disruption and the capacity for a quick response in business and specifically in the Federal Senate, in the remote deliberation system. It is only possible to give this answer as fast as the one we gave, in seven days, because the base was already there and we already had the paths waiting for us to walk and when they called us, we did it, and we successfully came out on the other side. 


Digital transformation, in my opinion, is not an event, but it is a consolidation of various efforts and types in the information technology area from the technical dimension, passing through the human aspect and reaching the IT management, planning, and governance.

[header image source: unsplash] 

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