The National Assembly of the Republic of Suriname consists of 51 members who are elected per district to represent the citizens. These members are selected for a term of 5 years. The National Assembly is also considered the highest institution of the state.
Besides drafting and passing legislation this institute maintains open communication with the public regarding legislation matters thanks to its website, youtube channel, and a channel dedicated to the work of the National Assembly.
The pandemic, although not the greatest thing to experience, made a lot of people realize the benefits of communicating digitally or remotely. This caused an acceleration in the digital transformation of the organization.
With the help of technology and digitalization of information an ease of access can be created for all stakeholders which would solve a lot of the current problems regarding finding information about old, current, or upcoming legislations and the information around them like the meetings that were held and notes that were made regarding that legislation.
Just looking at the stakeholders like the members of Parliament and other civil servants is mostly the demand. As to the Parliamentary staff, the demand is usually around notices about the organization itself and of course to make certain work-related processes easier for them like uploading and sorting public documents.
As an I.T. department, it is our job to recognize opportunities and respond with knowledge and expertise regarding technologies or applications which can meet those demands.
As to the demand for internal communications and availability of documents regarding legislation we started using HCL Connections (Formerly IBM Connections) and HCL Verse (Formerly IBM Verse) in 2015 with the help of implementation from Acuity.
The HCL software still delivers on the demands needed today like general and community-based information & file sharing, e-mail & calendar and event scheduling and instant messaging, and collaborative document editing. Which also come with mobile app solutions.
Image 2 – Screenshot HCL Connections
We also have certain administrative software in place to make it easier for Parliamentary staff to do administrative work like confirming overtime during long meetings using a custom-made application and leave of absence using Step2HR among other administrative processes.
We also have an application used to register meeting and speaker times during meetings to do the needed timekeeping during meetings. The application is currently limited to mainly keeping track of speaker times but was meant to have one application to keep track of bill statuses, history, and other legislation data for reporting purposes.
To inform the public about meetings, legislations, and members there is a website (dna.sr) where all the needed information for the public can be found. The legislation documents and other media are also uploaded for the public to use. The meetings are also live-streamed on YouTube channel of The National Assembly along with other information programs like DNA Journaal (Our internal news program) and DNA actueel (Updates about recent developments) which are also broadcasted to the TV station (Channel 8.4) of The National Assembly. There is also a Facebook page available for updates to the public. All of this is done by our internal communication and audio-visual department.
Every department has its own processes which in turn have its own problems or limitations. As the I.T. department, it is our duty to recognize those problems or limitations and try to minimize these. The members of Parliament and Parliamentary staff also make these problems known to us when we propose certain solutions in a project manner, but it is up to the clerk to accept or decline these proposals.
And what we have noticed is that certain problems lie in the processes themselves. To automate something you need to know the process first so you can come up with ways to make it easier or faster. But if those processes are not established and constantly change due to minor pressure then you have a problem with collecting the needed requirements to automate the process. To solve this we usually come up with our own definition of the process which is both practical and easy to implement together with the proposed tool to accomplish this. And in most cases, the proposed processes are then established by the clerk or other people in management, and we move on from there with the needed training and guidance for the staff so they can get used to the new way of working.
One of the biggest cybersecurity concerns is ransomware because of the impact of damage it can have on both the trust and financial part of the organization. Trust because it shows that the data we are trusted with is easily compromised and financially because there is usually a sum amount of money asked to recover the data. To fight this we ensure the data is encrypted so that even when compromised it cannot be used. We also frequently create backups to ensure we always have a method of recovering the stolen data. The other major concerns are phishing and malware attacks which we tackle by timely informing the staff of potential ways these attacks are executed and how to stop them. We also have our own security parameters in place to make sure those attacks are not successful even when executed.
The main challenge in promoting digital transformation in our legislative house is to get the members and staff who are used to the old ways of doing things or are not used to using certain digital products.
We do provide the necessary guidance and training for them to get up to date with the products but it’s usually up to the person themselves to accept the new ways of working and further develop the necessary skills to do so.
To increase the transparency and participation standard of the House we need to get everybody involved by further promoting the new ways of working as the standard and bending the processes towards them and not the other way around. This way everybody knows what is happening and why changes are being made. And of course to show them the added benefits to those changes so they willingly accept them.
The pandemic shifted the way of thinking for most people as many witnessed the benefits of working digitally. And it shows that this will be the way of working moving forward. It is up to us to make sure the systems are working as expected and to make the added benefits known to the people intended to use it.
As described there are a lot of different tools used to make work easier for both members of Parliament and Parliamentary staff. The problem with this is that usually information gets scrambled because it needs to be manually written or uploaded in different places. In the future, we hope to have more integrated information to make it easier to input and access all intended stakeholders. So to be the future of the legislative power lies in the ease of processing all legislative data and making the public data easy and accessible for everyone.
About the Author:
Jonathan is a Parliamentary staff at The National Assembly at the ICT department and is responsible for application management and helpdesk requests among other things I.T.-related.
[header image source: unsplash]
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