The advances in ICT are opening new avenues for parliamentary institutions to conduct their functions in a more democratic, transparent, and innovative manner. Many parliaments across the globe are embracing ICTs to enhance and strengthen their core functions and processes. In this article, we enumerate a few instances of successful implementation of ICT in the parliamentary systems in India and other countries.
Information and communication technologies (ICT) are pivotal to automating and modernizing the parliamentary institutions and thereby increasing the involvement of the citizens in parliamentary activities. The free flow of information and active participation of citizens is the foundation of any successful democracy. ICT promotes two-way communication and makes the parliaments more accountable and transparent.
The World e-parliament Report, 2016 emphasizes the transformative effect ICT can have on the parliaments and also highlights the challenges faced by developing countries. ICT is becoming an indispensable tool in parliament process automation and to strengthen the roles of legislation, representation, and oversight.
Successful Deployment of ICT in the parliaments across the world
The core principle behind introducing ICT in parliaments is to transform the parliaments into efficient and representative institutions that are interconnected through technology and promotes knowledge sharing and free dissemination of information. Many countries have displayed interest to introduce ICT in their parliaments. However, it is pertinent to note that most of the efforts are limited to websites and forums, and an end-to-end e-Parliament software solution that digitalizes the entire parliamentary process is lacking.
Let’s have a brief on some notable ICT implementations in the parliaments across the world.
- Finland introduced ICT in the Ministry of Finance in November 1999, to improve the citizen’s participation in policymaking. The project was well-received and was later revised in 2001 to provide a platform where the public can voice their issues to the ministries.
- The Australian government made a successful utilization of ICT by introducing a consultation page in the Department of Defence website to increase the participation of the citizens.
- The Asia Pacific Parliamentary Forum is a collaborative platform for the national parliamentarians. The forum enhances cooperation among the Asian countries and allows the parliamentarians to discuss the various social, economic, and political issues and share ideas of common interest.
- UK Parliament implemented a revolutionary initiative in March 2000 where ICT was efficiently used to provide online consultation for victims of domestic violence. This concept became a powerful channel for women to voice their grievances.
- The Inter-Parliamentary Forum of the Americas uses ICT through its website to serve as a central repository of information and offer engagement tools like video conferencing.
- Bahrain developed an e-Parliament strategy and allocated 5 to 10% of its annual budget for ICT. Since computer literacy is high in Bahrain, the MPs are making use of ICT in their official correspondence and many day-to-day operations. They have advanced to using virtual parliaments, digital libraries, and e-voting in their functions.
- Morocco has implemented an e-Parliament strategy in cooperation with UNDP with a cost estimated around USD 2.4 million. Along with a host of changes, it also plans to develop the required software applications.
- India launched a National e-Governance Plan to integrate the e-Governance initiatives in the country and take them forward with a shared objective. The Indian Parliament uses ICT extensively in its functioning. The Rajya Sabha Secretariat Information Technology (IT) Plan 2010-12 aims to develop an institutional framework for introducing ICT in the governance. The website of Rajya Sabha brings the members within reach of the citizens and provides them quick access to information. There is a live webcast of the Rajya Sabha sessions, which is one of the first initiatives in the world to webcast parliament proceedings.
- The eVidhan of the Himachal Pradesh Legislative Assembly is another instance of harnessing ICT. By going digital, HP assembly could save costs, increase efficiency, and improve public participation in its policy-making process.
ICT can promote participatory democratic culture and hence parliaments must introduce ICT on a large scale in their functioning.
Each country is unique and the framework of the parliaments differs according to the political, social, and economic climate of the country. Implementation of ICT should consider the circumstances prevailing in the country. Developing countries might have lesser access to ICTs and the infrastructure or the level of technological literacy among the parliament members might not be at par with the developed countries.
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