Remote Deliberation in the Ukrainian Parliament

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

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On March 30, 2020, the parliament adopted the changes that allowed us to hold remote meetings, and on April 6, 2020, we had two meetings in the remote regime. In the previous month, that is, on February 4, 2020, a single automated document management system started to operate in the Ukrainian Parliament. According to Parliament’s internal rules, this system should provide for the creation of 118 types of documents such as bills, decrees, all complementary documents and amendments. Simultaneously with the release of this system, Ukrainian deputies received a tablet and a mobile workstation was created for each of them. This allowed us to create a platform for remote work and remote interaction between deputies, Parliament and citizens. The most used platforms in our parliament to hold meetings were Microsoft Teams and Zoom. Some committees have even gone so far as to use WebEx and Skype.


All of our remote work systems are properly protected by suitable hardware and software solutions. The protection of the login of our users and deputies is done by filtering against DDOS attacks and also a two-factor system. For this protection, we used only national data encryption standards. It is worth mentioning the technical assistance to our users, deputies and also staff. To prepare our users, the IT department kindly also did a series of classes, webinars, questions and answers and issued electronic guides. Before starting the quarantine, we had trained to work on the document management system with over a thousand users and after the quarantine all civil servants and deputies were again trained to work on this document and meeting system. All training was done with the help and assistance of our partners, which are the USAID programs of the parliament and the company Microsoft Ukraine.


During this quarantine period, 22 parliamentary committee meetings and more than 200 committee meetings were held by videoconference. We are honored to present these impressive results that deserve the attention of our deputies from Ukraine. Among the 423 deputies, 401 are already working within the electronic document management system and also the electronic bill system. During this period, more than 140 thousand electronic documents were created, including 820 electronic bills and 42 comparative tables. During the quarantine, 11 extraordinary sessions of parliament were held. When working in parliament in the session room, deputies obeyed the requirements of social distance and wore masks.


At the same time, on March 20 of 2020, a bill was registered that would allow these meetings of Parliament to be held by videoconference. However, this project has not yet been evaluated and has not been voted on.


So, according to the experiences of our partners and the solutions approved by them, countries like Brazil, Estonia and Latvia, we also saw the need to improve our software to allow the meetings and the electronic sessions of the committees. Also the electronic required improvement in plenary sessions of the Parliament, which would include electronic voting registration and also remote participation of deputies in the work of committees.


During the quarantine, we also had plenary sessions using the normal and electronic vote counting system. This system is local, that is, installed inside the plenary room, which is why members are not allowed to participate in the voting remotely. We are now evaluating this possibility of creating mobile applications, as Brazil has been doing in its remote work system, so that Ukrainian deputies will also be able to use these applications to vote, where the counting of votes will also be included and that it will work remotely, but for that we will need adequate legislation.


Commissions are operating remotely and voting is done by simply raising hands. We already have an approved legislative act that should assess the need to create these mobile applications that will allow you to do electronic meetings and even vote counting remotely, but you will also need appropriate legislation for this.


Our recommendation to other parliaments is that innovative means of communication technology should be approved faster than the process of voting on these legislative acts on this same issue. I believe that countries should follow the example of Spain and Brazil that, Spain in 2012 and Brazil in 2016 and 2018, started to elaborate, analyse and vote on these remote work procedures and, thus, in 2020, it was possible to approve these legislation.

[header image source: unsplash] 

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