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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. 37. Mitigating Technological Barriers

Parliament shall seek to mitigate technological barriers to using parliamentary information by presenting information in easily accessible formats and by providing clear instructions for use of any online databases or tools that enable citizens to retrieve parliamentary information from the parliamentary website. To the extent parliament provides a user interface, it shall use best practices to maximize user experience.

Information and documents produced by parliaments should be accessible to citizens regardless of the technology being used or the level of technological knowledge and ability of the citizen.  As noted by the European Parliament, the “content of a document shall be available without discrimination on the grounds of visual impairment, working language or operating system platform. Institutions shall provide for actual access by an applicant to the content of documents without technical discrimination.”[1]  The Guidelines for Parliamentary Websites has specific recommendations on making parliamentary websites as simple to use as possible.  Ease of use can be improved by explaining the organization of the website, choosing design elements with the user in mind, and conducting user testing of final product. Further, the Guidelines recommend that websites comply by W3C standards[2] or others which ensure that websites can be used by persons with disabilities. Examples of design elements that would be important to ensure ease of use include: a section with frequently asked questions, a site map, a help function, webmaster contact information, and instructions on how to use search functionality.[3]

International organizations, governments and parliaments have recognized the importance of enhancing technical literacy. In Namibia, Parliament has partnered with aid organizations to implement web training to schoolchildren, specifically detailing the parliamentary website.[4] The Parliament introduced programs like a Mobile Training Unit, which travels around the country providing computer training.[5] Countries like Colombia have also addressed challenges of technical literacy by working through the Ministry of ICT to provide digital literacy trainings to citizens around the country.


[1] 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, 3a.

[2] W3C, or the World Wide Web Consortium, is the primary international standards organization for the World Wide Web. For information on W3C standards, see their website at http://www.w3.org/standards/. Accessed 6/26/2012.

[3] IPU, Guidelines for Parliamentary Websites, §1.1d, 5.1, 5.2, 5.4.

[4] USAID Namibia, Accountability of Parliament, 28 Aug 2006. http://transition.usaid.gov/na/so3.htm. Accessed on 6/12/2012.

[5] Africa4All, Parliament of Namibia, http://www.africa4all-project.eu/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=10&Itemid=3. Accessed on 6/12/2012.