The public comment period for this legislation has ended.

Declaration on Parliamentary Openness [Draft Commentary]

0 section comments

Title V - Enabling Electronic Access and Analysis of Parliamentary Information

Sec. 43. Enabling Use of Alert Services

Where possible, parliament shall provide citizens the ability to subscribe to services to alert them of certain types of parliamentary developments through the use of email, SMS text, or other technologies.

It is important to keep citizens apprised of parliamentary developments as they occur, and is part of parliament’s responsibility of parliaments to provide information in a timely manner (provision 11). This can be done effectively by using alert services using mobile phones or email. The IPU recommends parliaments use alert services: “Alerting services, such as email, RSS, or other appropriate technologies that enable members and the public to be informed about important parliamentary actions such as the introduction of, and changes to, the status and text of legislation; members’ activities; committee activities; oversight and scrutiny activities; and plenary activities.”[1] The OPPD also cites alert services as a crucial modern technology tool that parliaments increasingly use to enhance openness.[2]

 

The World e-Parliament Report 2010 survey found that 47% of parliaments currently have some form of alert service.[3] In the United Kingdom, parliament offers an email alert system to notify constituents of important events.[4] Civil society has become involved in this effort as well. TheyWorkForYou.com, a website created by mySociety, provides email alerts to constituents when, for instance, their member of parliament is participating in debate on a key issue or casts a vote.[5] PMG in South Africa, PRS Legislative Research in India, and GovTrack in the United States also all provide an updated feed on their website detailing any changes that occur in the status of bills in their respective parliaments and provide email alert services as well.[6]  The Sunlight Foundation has developed the Congress application that allows citizens to receive updates on congressional developments on Android phones.[7] While many parliaments may view access to parliamentary information through mobile devices as a luxury, parliaments can enable outside developers to create such applications ad hoc by simply providing access to parliamentary information in structured and open formats, like XML.


[1] IPU, Guidelines for Parliamentary Websites, §3.3.

[2] OPPD, Information and Communications Technologies in Parliament: Tools for Democracy, European Parliament, August 2010, p. 17.

[3] Global Centre for ICT in Parliament, World e-Parliament Report 2010, IPU-UNDESA, p. 64.

[4] Website of the UK Parliament, http://www.parliament.uk/site-information/email-alerts/. Accessed 6/12/2012.

[5] TheyWorkForYou.Com, Keeping Tabs on the UK’s Parliaments & Assemblies, http://www.TheyWorkForYou.com. Accesed 6/10/2012.

[6] For PMG, see: http://www.pmg.org.za for PRS, see: http://www.prsindia.org; for GovTrack, see: http://www.govtrack.us.

[7] Sunlight Foundation, Congress for your Android Phone!, http://sunlightfoundation.com/projects/congress-for-android/. Accessed 6/12/2012.