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Declaration on Parliamentary Openness [Draft Commentary]

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Title V - Enabling Electronic Access and Analysis of Parliamentary Information

Sec. 35. Maintaining Parliamentary Websites

Even in countries with limited Internet usage, the maintenance and regular updating of a comprehensive parliamentary website is a vital aspect of parliamentary openness in the modern, interconnected world. Parliament shall ensure that parliamentary information is available in electronic format and shall regard online dissemination as an essential means of communication.

Parliamentary websites are a critical tool for enhancing citizen outreach and engagement. Parliamentary websites broaden citizen access to parliamentary information by giving any citizen with access to the Internet the ability to use website content at their own convenience, irrespective of geographic location, schedule, or other potential barriers. Even where Internet penetration is limited, internet access often gets vital information to leading civil society organizations and to the media, who are then able to disseminate the information more broadly. Information provided electronically is often more readily searchable than information provided on paper, and it can be more easily analyzed and shared among citizens. Some parliaments use their websites to improve citizen participation in the parliamentary process by developing tools that allow citizens to provide input on legislation, provide feedback to MPs, and discuss parliamentary matters through social networking tools, such as Facebook and Twitter.

According to the World e-Parliament Report 2010, “[w]ebsites have become the primary means by which parliaments make their work and their documents known to civil society, to the media and, most importantly, directly to citizens.”[1] It reports, furthermore, that 97% of parliaments surveyed have a website, which “... suggests that several parliaments have made considerable progress in achieving high levels of openness and transparency…”[2] SADC-PF asserts that “[p]arliament shall have a regularly updated website to enhance and promote information sharing and interaction with citizens and the outside world.”[3] Civil society groups[4] and the open data movement[5] have advocated for greater parliamentary usage of websites to disseminate information.

Recognizing the importance of parliamentary websites, the European Parliament’s OPPD has stated that, “[t]hose administrative offices responsible for producing parliamentary documents need to recognise that websites increasingly are the primary means by which the public and the members obtain legislative information.”[6] This was reflected in the European Parliament’s newly passed law governing the openness and release of parliamentary information, which mandates that European Union institutions “should make publicly accessible by default on their websites as many categories of documents as possible.”[7]  A variety of resources and tools, , including Akoma Ntoso and Bungeni,[8] are available to enhance parliament’s ability to share information through the web in open data formats.

[1] Global Centre for ICT in Parliament, World e-Parliament Report 2010, IPU-UNDESA, p. 49.

[2] Ibid., p. 13.

[3] SADC PF, Benchmarks for Democratic Legislatures in Southern Africa, §6.4.2.

[4] Center for Liberal Strategies, Open Parliaments: Transparency and Accountability of Parliaments in South-East Europe, p. 15.

[5] TAI, Opening Government, 2011, p. 15.

[6] OPPD, Information and Communication Technologies in Parliament, European Parliament, August 2010,p. 18.

[7] Regulation (EC) No 1049/2001 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 30 May 2001 regarding public access to European Parliament, Council and Commission documents. Official Journal L 145 , 31/05/2001 P. 0043 – 0048, 13

[8] For more information on Akoma Ntoso and Bungeni, see their websites at and Both accessed 6/25/2012.