Remote Deliberations in the National Assembly of Cape Verde
I’m Emanuel Corrêa, representative of the National Assembly of Cape Verde. I would like to thank for the invitation and the opportunity to share this presentation on the technological adaptation of the National Assembly to guarantee its functioning during the Covid-19 crisis.
Cape Verde is a small Country located on the west coast of Africa with a resident population of around 500 thousand inhabitants and more than 1 million in the diaspora. Our legislative is made up of 72 deputies and 5 specialised committees.
Covid-19 required the implementation of new ways to maintain the regular functioning of State institutions, safeguarding public health without jeopardizing the full exercise of democracy. The National Assembly invested in videoconferencing platforms and, for this, several investments were made, others are still in progress with the purpose of guaranteeing a better quality of the legislative functioning.
We detected, from the moment we started using video conferencing, a few aspects needed to improve.
During the presentations by videoconference, the deputies that were present could not see the virtual plenary room as a whole. In addition, we also found that we had to improve the quality of the image and sound during parliamentary work, mainly by deputies on videoconference. The management of points of order, mainly for deputies in videoconference was also a priority, as well as the voting system, with the introduction of electronic voting.
We have an electronic voting system incorporated into the National Assembly’s hemicycle sound system. However, so that deputies in videoconferencing could also use electronic voting, we had to develop on top of the IT platform, Microsoft’s video conferencing solution.
We had to develop a tool so that deputies on video conference could carry out electronic voting.
We have 72 deputies here and of these, 26 are on the islands, whose travels were interrupted due to Covid-19, so the deputies who were on the other islands could only attend parliamentary sessions by videoconference.
We had to make this adaptation remotely in order for the deputies to be able to use electronic voting. We also had to improve the visualisation of the number of participants, because at the beginning, when we started using Microsoft Teams, we found that the platform only allowed on-screen sampling of only 4 members, then it went to 9, but we also used WebEx, from CISCO. At this moment we present 25 deputies on the screen of the videoconference, in addition to an image that we show of the time counting of the parliamentary sessions, because the deputies in videoconference complained that they could not see the time count of the parliamentary sessions.
In addition, we had to improve the system for managing points of order, as deputies on videoconferencing would have to raise their hands to be recognised by the Speaker. So we, on top of Microsoft Teams, developed a tool in which the deputies, through the software, could ask to be recognised. During this time of pandemic, we held until September 2020, 16 parliamentary sessions, between ordinary parliamentary sessions and extraordinary sessions. We held a formal session on July 5, 2020, which was the celebration of the Independence of Cape Verde, in addition to parliamentary forums and other events.
The committees also held their meetings by videoconference, there were 31 meetings until September 2020. 19 laws were passed during this time of pandemic and 19 resolutions until September 2020.
All this information is available on the Portal of the Parliamentary Legislative Information System (SILP), which was developed by the National Assembly. In this portal we have a lot of information, from the Speaker’s agenda, plenary sessions, committees, bills, among others. This platform allows legislative process, that is, from the proposal is submission, all the way through the lawmaking process, we make it available on this platform.
In addition, we broadcast all parliamentary sessions on the National Assembly’s web channel. We also broadcast on the YouTube channel and on the Facebook page. During this time of pandemic, we had more than 166 thousand views and about 62% was in Cape Verde, but we also had views in the United States, Portugal and other countries.
We found that some deputies on the islands had problems with internet access, so the National Assembly guaranteed access to the internet through a telephone service provider. In addition, deputies who were in need received mobile devices from the National Assembly. And not only to the deputies, but also to the technicians who work in the specialised committees, to guarantee the full functioning of the National Assembly.
At the moment, the National Assembly of Cape Verde is presiding over the CPLP (Community of Portuguese Speaking Countries). We are working on the new CPLP website, because we believe the website we have at the moment is very static. We have already made the new website and we have submitted a proposal to the Speaker of the National Assembly. We are waiting to see if with this platform we can improve the processing of documents between the CPLP countries.