Building the digital parliament
The World e-Parliament Report 2016, which I authored, is now available. It reveals how digital and social technologies have supported deep changes in the operational environment and cultural landscape of parliaments. The data behind the report tells a story of the digital parliament as a living entity, directly linked to those it serves in ways that were hard to imagine when the first World e-Parliament Report was published in 2008.
This fourth report in the series, launched at the World e-Parliament Conference in Valparaiso, Chile, documents how parliaments are using ICT to support their internal and external functions and processes. It reveals how parliaments have become more outward facing and more open, for the first time exploring the emergence of open data as well as the rapid growth of social media. This new research surveyed 114 parliamentary chambers in 88 countries. Highlighting the increasing importance of openness and transparency, it also includes an examination of the work of Parliamentary Monitoring Organisations (PMOs), examining their role as data brokers, intermediaries and interpreters.
The digital parliament mirrors the world around it. Social tools are important and data and documentation is being freed up through web-based technologies and open standards. Yet many parliaments, particularly those in low-income countries, remain hampered by a lack of access to best practices and support from the international donor community in new and emerging areas of, such as open data. The challenges that remain are not simply ones of technology adoption, many are strategic and need to be addressed at a systemic level, requiring political as well as institutional commitment. Whilst internal systems and processes appear stronger, parliaments remain constrained by a lack of funding and skills.
The report shows that, too often, digital is seen as a technical function, yet it highlights how ICT has been transformative for parliaments and political leadership in favour of greater openness, as well as producing institutional improvements in terms of the legislative process, scrutiny and reporting. Social tools and open data herald a seismic shift in the relationship between parliament and citizens. Citizens are no longer recipients of broadcast information but can be active participants, connecting more often and more easily. The report highlights how PMOs can be active and effective partners in this process, reaching audiences that parliament cannot and adding value to the democratic process in unique ways.