Like fellow parliaments around the world, the COVID-19 pandemic and associated restrictions has meant adjusting procedures and processes very quickly for many of our Pacific hub Members. At the height of the lockdown, many used virtual and hybrid means to continue parliamentary business. Tele- and videoconferencing technologies, including Zoom and Skype, have been utilized, particularly for committee business and to facilitate parliamentary staff working from home. Some Members, such as New Zealand and Vanuatu, have livestreamed sittings on PTV, Facebook and YouTube, to mitigate the public not being able to access parliament physically. Some themes of challenge include cyber security, network stability, changes to procedural rules to enable such virtual solutions, and third-party use of material. However, opportunities abound and the situation has hastened some of the technological and procedural changes needed to enhance public engagement and accessibility.
The UNDP Pacific Office has provided significant support to a number of parliaments in the region around ICT over the last quarter, and works closely with Australia, New Zealand, and the IPU to harmonize the sharing of knowledge.
More generally, technology has been employed to continue regional networking through various webinars and technical support as well. For example, the Pacific Floating Budget Office initiative with the Legislative Assembly of Tonga was conducted remotely with a team including researchers from the Republic of Fiji and New Zealand.
The CIP Pacific regional hub intends to hold a virtual Zoom meeting over the next month, to discuss the information systems and technology (IST) challenges and opportunities of this time.
The Pacific hub’s Yammer group continues to grow in membership and Members have found examples from around the globe useful as we adjust to the “new normal”.