Interparliamentary Cooperation: The implementation of remote deliberation

Read Patricia Almeida’s from Brazilian House of Representatives article

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I want to share with you one of the richest experiences that I have lived, which is the collaboration between parliaments. It all started with the creation of the Open Data Hub in the Interparliamentary Union, which the House of Representatives in Brazil coordinates. It is a meeting with a group of IT professionals from various parliaments trying to create open data good practices and spread it among parliaments.

 

Our first project is the construction of a website that would serve the citizens of the world, to have in a few clicks access to laws, proposals and technical studies on any subject. This would also be used by anyone who participates in the process of drafting laws.

 

The first meeting of the groups was in 2019 in the House of Representatives in Brazil. We had several partner parliaments with us. At the beginning of 2020, we were ready to hold a meeting at the House of Commons in Canada, with more than 50 colleagues from the IT areas in parliaments. Unfortunately the pandemic came and we had to postpone it.

 

Although the site is ready with a first version online and with a data sample from several parliaments, the work continued remotely. And, as a coordinator, I asked myself: Am I prepared to implement a virtual plenary? I had only 4 days left to implement this here in the House and I was discussing open data, I had to change the subject.

 

I asked this question to colleagues: How are you from IT teams helping parliaments to overcome this difficulty? I received several messages, testimonials and questions for days, weekends, even at night as they are colleagues parliaments from almost all continents. 

 

The interesting thing is that the richness that this dialogue was built made the Interparliamentary Union itself insert other colleagues from parliaments who also wanted to participate in the conversation. And today we have 25 Parliaments in this project with us.

 

But the important thing to note is that the discussion was not just about the technology, but about the reasons for its implementation. And then the discussions started to flow in the line of needs. First the concern was about the legal instrument that supported this change to the virtual. And then, in the House of Representatives of Brazil, we had a legislative resolution for hybrid sittings and colleagues were also moving along with their legislative areas to see in each of the parliaments what was possible to contemplate. In our case, we had technological and legislative elements in the legislative resolution.

 

Without this politically negotiated part, nothing would happen afterwards. Then, discussions jumped to the videoconferencing platforms. 

 

The products available on the market needed to be tested, not only in their functionality, but how they were being adapted to different situations. And it is impressive the diversity of options that has been found. Something very interesting was how some parliaments implemented this hybrid model of plenary contemplating some deputies inside and outside the premises of the legislative house. Particularities such as simultaneous translation were a necessity of the European Parliament, of the House of Commons of Canada, and the Pan African Parliament. 

 

Security was a topic that took over most of the discussions, to the point that we at the House of Representatives produced a security risk analysis report in videoconferences, with 4 versions of it that were made available to all parliaments.

 

Everytime something came up, everyone rushed to look for solutions or alternatives for all of them. 

 

Discussions then evolved into e-voting, the way through the voting system. How would we do it using technology systems to get closer to the real dynamics of a session in a virtual mode? This was one of the biggest challenges.

 

To create different channels of communication between parliamentarians, it to try to meet the particularities of each one of these items, and that required a lot of discussions and naturally it grew the curiosity, the need to review legislative processes and then see that we were already touching the digital legislative process itself.

 

The maturity grew to see that some ideas we had were myths and others that we thought were fine, actually were not. All of us, submitted to this test during the pandemic, and saw that we had a lot to adjust in our digital strategies.

 

The great learning that we achieved and implemented shows that it is the beginning of a long road in the digital transformation that I feel happy to see that now it is being supported by the collaboration of all parliaments.

 

So it is the beginning of different journeys on the path to a digital parliament. I am very grateful to all colleagues and parliaments of the group for the generosity and frankness they shared their problems and went beyond to to help to solve the problems of others and with enormous respect that existed in not judging other people’s solutions and understanding that each one had a context in a geographic location sense, in a social sense and even in a model of parliament sense.

[header image source: unsplash] 

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