Monday, December 15, 2008

First Global Report on Parliaments and their use of ICT

The World e-Parliament Report 2008 represents a first effort to establish a baseline of how parliaments are using, or planning to use ICT to help them fulfill their responsibilities and to connect to their constituencies. The Report (by UNDESA and the Inter-Parliamentary Union, via Global Centre for ICT in Parliament) also provides an opportunity for sharing lessons learned and good practices from different regions of the world.

Below is a my attempted summary of the paper: 

  • The World e-Parliament Report 2008 is the first assessment from a global perspective of how information and communication technologies (ICT) are being used by parliaments across the array of activities under their mandates.

  • Methodology: survey responses of 105 global assemblies, experiences during World e-Parliament Conference 2007 and relevant public information.

  • Goals: to help legislatures evaluate the potential benefits of ICT in supporting parliament’s work, and to share knowledge.

  • Areas of analysis: 9 substantive areas  
            a) Parliament, ICT and the information society; 
            b) Vision, innovation and leadership; 
            c) Implementation: management, planning and resources;
            d) Infrastructures and services; 
            e) Documenting the legislative process; 
            f) Parliamentary websites; 
            g) Building a knowledge base for parliament; 
            h) Enhancing the dialogue with citizens
            i) Cooperation and coordination.

  • Results:
    • income level of each country plays a significant role in determining the extent to which ICT are adopted in parliaments. However, technological legacies in older legislative bodies, organizational flexibilities in younger parliaments, and the rapid evolution of technologies are all factors that can help level the playing field among legislatures.

    • Attaining a high level of performance in the application of ICT is not only dependent on financial resources; it also requires strong political leadership, active engagement of members, a skilled secretariat, well-trained technical staff, and a sustained commitment to the strategic implementation of information and communication technologies in the legislative setting.

    • Approximately 10 per cent of the surveyed parliaments have acquired extensive ICT capabilities across a wide range of key application areas. These include developing document management systems, utilizing open document standards, creating rich websites, and providing access to pending legislation. 

    • At the other end of the spectrum, many parliaments lack a strategic plan, an adequate ICT infrastructure, basic tools for members and staff, systems for managing documents and trained ICT staff. The status of the ICT systems and services of those parliaments that fall between these two groups is uneven. Many of them have implemented ICT applications that serve some of their most important functions. But many of these applications appear to be operating at the lowest level of utility and the technologies available are not taken advantage of. 

    •  An issue of special importance to parliaments in today’s world is improving dialogue with citizens. Some chambers and parliaments are exploring new approaches using the Web, and others have plans to test new ICT-based systems. However, currently very few legislatures have any systematic capabilities for interactive communication with citizens.

  • Conclusion:
    •  there is a significant gap between what is possible with ICT and what has actually been accomplished by parliaments thus far. 
    • On the other hand, survey responses clearly demonstrate that most parliaments have plans to improve their use of technology to support their goals and their work and that parliaments are acutely aware of the strategic importance of ICT.
    •  Narrowing this gap will require increased cooperation and coordination among parliaments, in partnership with other stakeholders, and a worldwide dialogue is becoming increasingly essential. 
    • Support for those parliaments with fewer resources is important- such as increasing the opportunities for sharing expertise and software at a global level and providing greater access to parliamentary information resources.

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