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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. 40. Allowing Downloadability for Reuse

Parliamentary information shall be easily downloadable, in bulk, and well-documented to allow for easy reuse for multiple purposes, as well as in bulk.

As parliaments increasingly use the Internet to release information, it must be able to be downloadable to able to be reused. Bulk downloading allows for parliamentary information to be presented in ways that enhance and enrich understanding of that information, which can contribute to citizen participation in government. The Guidelines for Parliamentary Websites call specifically for countries to provide on their parliament’s website the ability for “high speed downloading of parliamentary files.”[1] As described by  the European Parliament’s OPPD, “Because a multiplicity of voices is generally a positive attribute in a democracy, parliaments should facilitate this development by making legislative information available in standard formats which are easily downloadable.”[2] 

The World e-Parliament Report 2010 survey of democratic parliaments reports that 44% currently offer document downloads in open formats and that 30% were planning or considering doing it.[3] The report describes the ability to download parliamentary data in bulk as a crucial step to allow data to be “incorporated into systems developed by others.” Standards for open government data established by Transparency International Georgia also note specifically that “bulk downloads should be made available via protocols such as FTP or rsync.”[4]  In April 2012, at a meeting of Speakers of parliaments of the European Union, including the President of the European Parliament, the Speakers formally called for the adoption of internationally agreed upon open standards to favor the reuse of public data.[5] In Italy, the Senate’s XML-based system allows citizens to download custom-made e-books of parliamentary information, including agendas, bills, reports, non-legislative related documents, and other materials.[6]

These parliamentary developments track those for governmental data more generally. Mexico, in its commitments to the Open Government Partnership, has pledged to work to release data in raw format, committing to “strive to promote the integration of processes related to digital services and the use of common platforms and information systems in order to foster the use of raw databases by citizens.”[7] The OECD reports that 56% of member countries publish administrative data sets, and that 53% have established laws or policies that require electronic information to be published in open formats that allow for re-use and data manipulation. OECD’s Government at a Glance report from 2011 explains, “Countries like Australia, New Zealand, the United Kingdom and the United States are providing access to public data in a reusable format through a central website (e.g. data.gov), and other countries (such as Chile and Spain) have also taken steps in this direction.”[8] 


[1] IPU, Guidelines for Parliamentary Websites, p.14.

[2] OPPD, Information and Communications Technologies in Parliament: Tools for Democracy, European Parliament, August 2010, p. 16.

[3] Global Centre for ICT in Parliament, World e-Parliament Report 2010, IPU-UNDESA, p. 65.

[4]Transparency International Georgia, Ten Open Data Guidelines, http://transparency.ge/en/ten-open-data-guidelines. Accessed 6/11/2012.

[5] Global Centre for ICT in Parliament, http://www.ictparliament.org/node/4707. Accessed 5/12/2012.

[6] Mauro Fioroni – ICT Dept., Senato della Repubblica, XML-based document processing in the Italian Senate –An Overview, Global Centre for ICT in Parliament Meeting, Washington, D.C., February 27-29, 2012. Available at: http://www.ictparliament.org/attachements/XMLmeeting/Day2B4-Fioroni.pdf 

[7] Open Government Partnership, Mexico: Country Commitments, http://www.opengovpartnership.org/countries/mexico. Accessed 6/12/2012.

[8] OECD, Government at a Glance 2011, p. 203.