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Issue 6

IPU Innovation Tracker

The quarterly electronic bulletin from the Centre for Innovation in Parliament

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Issue 6
Innovation Tracker

Issue 6

Welcome to the sixth edition of the Innovation Tracker. We look at how parliaments have had to adapt their way of functioning to preserve the systems of parliamentary democracy, with a focus on the parliaments of Brazil, Ukraine and Ecuador. We also have updates from the Open Data, Pacific, Southern African and Hispanophone hubs.

Innovation Tracker contributions

We are posting examples of innovation in parliament on Twitter using the hashtags #innovation #parliament. Please join us in using these hashtags, or send us good examples that we can share!

Do you have an example of innovative parliamentary working methods to share in the Innovation Tracker? Tell us about it via this online form or by e-mail to innovation@ipu.org.

Innovation in parliamentary working methods

Building the virtual parliament: The state of play at the end of June 2020

With the COVID-19 pandemic parliaments had to adapt their way of functioning to preserve our systems of parliamentary democracy. To be able to scrutinize what the government is doing and pass new laws, parliaments had to enforce remote working and reduce sittings to respect the social distancing measure. For some parliaments, this has led to a rapid and dynamic cycle of enforced innovation, producing the first virtual and hybrid parliaments. Digital technologies have been embraced as a solution to remote working and the remote sitting of parliaments the legacy of which will last long after the pandemic has subsided.
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Preserving parliament’s functionality during the COVID-19 pandemic: Brazil’s experience

To ensure the continuity of legislative work during the COVID-19 pandemic, on 17 March, the Brazilian Chamber of Deputies approved Resolution 14/2020 on virtual plenary sessions. A virtual parliament had actually been established several months earlier, when the Brazilian members of parliament approved Resolution 12/2019 on the digital legislative process in the Brazilian Chamber of Deputies. Combined. These resolutions laid the ground for developing a broad digital solution to support the remote work of 513 MPs and will act as the contingency strategy after the crisis.
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Preserving the functionality of parliament during the COVID-19 pandemic: The Ukrainian experience

The Ukrainian Parliament – Verkhovna Rada – continued to function when Ukraine introduced the COVID-19 pandemic lockdown measures thanks to a rapid response to the new challenges and the results of work carried out earlier. As part of its e-Parliament Strategy for 2018-2020, in February 2020, the Verkhovna Rada had launched the Unified Automated System for Working with Documents. Before lockdown, targeted training was developed and conducted on a rolling basis for all categories of users of the Electronic Document Management System. As a result, Parliament was essentially ready for a paperless lawmaking process and electronic document management.
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100 days of teleworking during the COVID-19 pandemic: The Ecuador National Assembly

The National Assembly of Ecuador adapted rapidly to the adverse circumstances in the COVID-19 pandemic thanks to strategic planning aimed at digitalizing the management policy of the legislative that had been undertaken much earlier. Remote participation of MPs is carried out through videoconferencing, and plenary sittings and its various processes are managed through a unique Electronic Office System. Information on sittings is available on apps for mobile devices and plenary sittings are broadcast live on radio and TV while official documents are sent through a document management system.
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Updates from the hubs

Thematic

Carrying on work in spite of the pandemic

Open data hub

Since the second meeting (Ottawa – March 2020) was postponed due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the members have been focused on putting in place conditions for remote meetings and deliberations during the crisis.

Nevertheless, the Brazilian Chamber of Deputies continued to develop the inter-parliamentary open data website (https://ipuopendata.camara.leg.br) as planned. Brazilian laws from 2015 to 2020 were translated into English by eTranslation and moved into the open data cloud in the format agreed with the hub members. A process to check the quality of the translations was also initiated, particularly those related to expressions for which translation was not necessary. In addition, new educational videos are being produced: a video for parliaments’ IT staff to learn all about the process of preparing their data to be moved into the open data cloud, and a set of videos for citizens about open data concepts and benefits, and how to understand them and use them. This second set will be available on the inter-parliamentary open data website.

The European Parliament continued to move their laws to the open data cloud during the pandemic.  The Open Data Hub coordinators are looking into a strategy to facilitate other members’ efforts to follow suit and restart their data processing.​

Open data hub
Regional

How Parliaments in the Pacific have been functioning during lockdown

Pacific hub

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”.

Pacific hub

Southern Africa and Hispanophone hubs hold virtual meetings with Member Parliaments

Southern African hub
Hispanophone hub

The CIP Southern Africa and Hispanophone hubs each held virtual Zoom meetings with Member Parliaments[1] on 12 May and 19 June respectively. The meetings were attended by IT directors and senior IT staff and aimed at facilitating knowledge exchange between the parliaments of the respective regions and, in particular, concerning ongoing or planned ICT projects for remote working / meeting / voting solutions in response to the COVID-19 pandemic and its disruption of parliamentary activity. The Southern Africa meeting was organized by the hub host – the National Assembly of Zambia; it also saw the participation of the Secretary General of the SADC Parliamentary Forum Ms. Boemo Sekgoma. The Hispanophone hub meeting was organized by the Chamber of Deputies of Chile as hub host, with support from the IPU and the National Democratic Institute (NDI).

Zoom

The meetings each featured a global overview presentation by the IPU Centre for Innovation in Parliament based on the ongoing survey which forms part of the IPU campaign Parliaments in a time of pandemic; followed by brief updates from the hub parliaments which provided more details on: the current status of parliamentary activity, including plenary and committee meetings; whether remote working and meeting solutions were deployed; how remote voting was handled; and how the legal framework for parliaments facilitated the above. The meetings were concluded with rich Q&A segments.

Some of the highlights of these meetings include:

  1. The disruption brings a tremendous opportunity to innovate. Parliamentary leaders are more than ever engaged in discussing innovation and are increasing their familiarity with digital issues.
  2. Most parliaments are faced with the same challenge of maintaining parliamentary business and implementing solutions for remote working and meeting. Many parliament IT teams are in one or more of the following stages of platform evaluation, procurement, testing and developing operating procedures; integrating of additional parliamentary meeting functionality (e.g. attendance, voting, speaking order, time management); and reviewing /amending standing orders.
  3. There are many common solutions being trialed and implemented. Remote working platforms like MS Teams and Zoom are top choice, but others such as Cisco WebEx, Jitsi are also being trialed. 
  4. Inclusiveness is high on the agenda: in both regions there are MPs that need to connect from remote areas where internet connectivity is suboptimal. Parliaments are trying to work around this by offering better voice and data packages. Others are resorting to the hybrid model where the lesser connected MPs do come to parliament and sit in smaller distributed rooms to respect social distancing, and others participate in meetings from their homes (e.g. in capital and bigger cities). The meetings are however conducted via videoconferencing. 
  5. There are lessons learned emerging from rolling out the new innovations to MPs. While the remote meeting solutions are relatively user friendly for MPs, they still require lots of technical support in other areas such as how to connect to parliamentary systems or how to use devices. Other “new issues” that are emerging include how to manage MPs virtual image and reputation (that is, look good during virtual meetings); and, how to conduct virtual meetings in an orderly manner. 
  6. Committee meetings are smaller in size as social distancing and other health-safety measures are observed.
  7. Parliaments present in the meetings agreed that knowledge-sharing on remote working and meeting solutions and practices is needed. The regional hubs will seek to facilitate this via the already existing WhatsApp groups –in a more structured manner.

Zoom

  1. Remote voting is by far the biggest challenge, where technical solutions must ensure security and integrity (that is, auditability) of the voting process. However, voting can be very simple initially (if well regulated): show of colored voting cards (Paraguay example). In the long term more integrity of the voting process is needed.
  2. Lastly there is a growing consensus among the senior IT officials that “we are not going backˮ. Several administrations are studying long-term solutions in rooted in comprehensive digital transformation with the electronic signature and e-document solutions and processes that are key pillars of the digital parliament

[1] Southern Africa regional hub attendees: Parliaments of Zambia (host), Angola, Botswana, Eswatini, Ghana, Lesotho, Malawi, South Africa, Zimbabwe, SADC PF Secretariat.

Latin America regional hub attendees: Parliaments of Chile (host), Argentina, Bolivia, Chile, Costa Rica, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Honduras, Mexico, Spain, Paraguay.

Southern African hubHispanophone hub