- Ari Hershowitz
I'm launching the Govable.ai blog with a series of posts about the [amazing!!] Legistech: Americas conference organized by the Bússola Tech and hosted at the Brazilian Senate, in Brasilia.
The conference brought together parliamentary technology professionals from Canada to Brazil, and Chile to the West Cape of South Africa, covering topics from accessibility to AI. Each person I spoke with gave me a new perspective on how dedidicated public administrators make democracy possible. Concrete examples:
- In Mexico and Perú, transcriptions of legislative sessions are published in indigenous languages. However, since many speakers of those languages do not read, the transcriptions are then converted into audio, both by people and by text-to-speech software.
- As part of a panel on drafting, Wade Ballou and Fotios Fitsilis began a fascinating thread on the science of drafting, a concept that merits a more in-depth discussion to explore the differences between the Continental and U.S. perspective. Wade is the Legislative Counsel of the United States House and Fotis the Head of the Scientific Service for the Greek Parliament.
- Remote participation took a variety of forms in the pandemic and has persisted in many countries, including committee hearings with experts testifying remotely, some committees themselves meeting remotely, and remote voting. Most of these steps required changes in tradition, process and technology. Security considerations (what if someone other than the member votes?) as well as the trade-offs of decentralizing the work of Parliament. The Canadian House of Commons has a report, and we heard from a number of countries about their approaches and challenges.
- We heard the many forms that technology takes, from equipping legislatures to make their own applications with Microsoft Power Apps (shout out to Chad Alexander at the West Cape Parliament!) to enabling citizens to draft proposed amendments to laws and submit them on the same public portal that legislators use (Brazilian Senate).
There was a great deal of innovation in the solutions we discussed, but what most struck me was the scope of the problems that conference participants have taken on. In Canada, for example, all IT challenges in Parliament are managed within the same organization; also, recognizing the capacity differences, the House of Commons manages the core infrastructure for both chambers. This has allowed the CIO's office to provide a consistent experience in all interactions with Parliament, from the legislative data portal to software systems in the cafeteria.
In upcoming posts, I'll dive deeper into some of the more eye-opening approaches I learned about. For now, I'd like to thank Luis, Sarah, the Bússola Tech team, and the Brazilian Senate for the care with which they curated this conference and to the colleagues who I met or met again, for sparking a million ideas and reinforcing my optimism for the future of parliamentary transparency and technology.
Participants at the conference included (in their own languages):
- Asamblea Legislativa de Costa Rica
- Assembleia da Republica de Moçambique
- Assembleia Legislativa do Estado do Rio Grande do Norte | Brasil
- Assembleia Nacional de Angola
- Assembleia Nacional Popular de Guiné-Bissau
- Association of Secretaries General of Parliaments
- Bússola Tech
- Cámara de Diputados de la Nación of Argentina
- Cámara de Diputados de México
- Cámara de Senadores of Uruguay
- Câmara dos Deputados do Brasil
- Commonwealth Parliamentary Association
- Congreso de la República de Perú
- Congreso Nacional de Chile
- Hellenic Parliament
- House of Commons of Canada / Chambre des Communes
- Israeli Knesset
- La Convención Constitucional de Chile
- National Assembly of Zambia
- Nationale Assemblee of Suriname
- NovaWorks Australia
- Parliament of Namibia
- Senado de Chile
- Senado Federal do Brasil
- U.S. House of Representatives
- UNALE (Brazilian equivalent to NCSL)
- Universidad Austral in Argentina
- Western Cape Provincial Parliament
- Xcential Legislative Technologies