E-Parliament to Leverage the Efficiency of Information Technology
For a smooth and efficient parliament
What happens behind the scenes of government machinery? Sadly, citizens have no knowledge of the law-making process. The functioning of the parliament is always beyond the grasp of the common man. For many of us, the government and its parliamentary process are shrouded in mystery and the general impression is one of inefficiency, wasteful expenses and a negligent attitude towards public money. We see the parliament as a place for debates and ruckus by the lawmakers. However, a parliament involves a lot more than this and has a responsible machinery to bring pro-citizen measures in the country.
I believe the parliamentary process can be completely digitalized to impart accountability and transparency in the system and make it friendlier to the common man. Technology can extend a helping hand here and innovative solutions like e-Parliament might bring about this revolution in the parliamentary functions.
What is an e-parliament?
The concept of e-Parliament might be new to you. So, let me begin by decoding it.
Digital parliament or e-Parliament is the use of ICTs in parliamentary institutions and processes so that their core functions and operations are enhanced and strengthened. These ‘e-parliaments’ are expected to change both the ways in which parliaments operate as well as their representative function. You can consider it the extension of digital transformation into the legislative process.
I would like to believe that this is a welcome technology intervention in the legislative process, just like it has in other aspects of public life and governance like passports, universal identity, urban amenities, e-citizen, e-governance applications and other areas where we have seen a lot of positive developments.
Benefits of an e-Parliament to the lawmakers and citizens
While a paperless office is one of the key objectives of the solution, it achieves much more than that. Think of the seamless integration between departments and honorable members of the legislatures, making way for smart workflows. These solutions convert our legislative houses into smart digital workplaces incorporating an evolving and innovative workflow.
You would appreciate the idea of an e-Parliament when you take a look at the benefits it offers.
- Improvement in the efficiency and transparency in the work of the Parliaments;
- Integrates the stakeholders and legislative process
- Reduces the time taken in the parliamentary process and results in efficient performance
- Reduction of process complexity
- Shortening of the learning curve of parliamentarians
- Establishes a central knowledge base for legislative knowledge
- Promoting transparency and involving the citizens in the parliament functions
- Cost reduction in holdings parliament sessions and eliminates paperwork
- Providing access to citizens about laws and other public documents
This system is built around the management of legislative procedures specific to each parliament. It also enables customization with regard to the implementation of legislative processes such as draft-laws, interpellations, and declarations.
Core features of e-Parliament
E-Parliament provides a pivotal position to information with its centralized repository of information. It reduces data redundancy, eliminates redundant processes, cuts down paper usage, printing cost, storage and preservation cost. Here are the core features of e-Parliament that support it to deliver these benefits.
- Integration of application ecosystem that would help Government departments to interface with the Parliament/Legislative secretariat.
- Monitoring of Government functionaries through the automated Parliament / Legislative committee system.
- Mobile applications for Parliament / Legislative members for tracking development issues in the constituencies.
- Powerful search engine and retrieval applications for citizens to view public documents offered by government agencies.
- The integration of mobile applications in the solution so that citizens can interact with Constituency representatives for grievance redressal.
This end-to-end enterprise solution benefits both the State and Citizens and has an operational, environmental, social and economic benefit.
The successful implementation of the e-Parliament solution in Himachal Pradesh
As an example, the implementation details of an e-parliament solution in Himachal Pradesh (HP), India would suffice to outline the benefits of this paperless software. The solution was an e-governance solution for HP Vidhan Sabha, to automate the law-making process. It enables members to communicate with each other in the house, raise queries, handle the voting process on issues and also provide the results. It provides the admin with a facility in the legislature to verify various entries.
Implementing the e-Parliament resulted in some notable benefits for the Himachal Pradesh government which could hopefully motivate the lawmakers worldwide to follow suit.
- Environmental benefits - It has provided benefits all around. In terms of environmental benefits, the solution saves 51 million sheets of paper annually which translates to about 7000 trees, 6.3 million liters of water and 346,000 kg of carbon emissions. It has helped save about 346 million gallons of water every year by making these typically documentation oriented processes totally automated. It has also helped reduce 846 metric tons of carbon footprints, apart from making the processes quicker, highly efficient and people-friendly.
- Social benefits- Its social benefits include real-time decision-making from the inputs provided by the data about the needs of the people gathered from each area or constituency. The solution has enabled effective time management, speedy information sharing, achieving a strong democratic process with the active participation of people in the law-making process. Operationally the solution has brought about an increase in efficiency, saved time and eliminated redundant processes.
- Monetary benefits - The monetary benefits it provides are impressive– a direct saving of about US$2.2 Million by avoiding printing, paper, and related overheads. Another monetary benefit is in the way it makes legislative processes faster and more efficient. It is estimated that the expenditure incurred in running the Indian Parliament during every single minute is about INR 260,000. Any reduction in the time taken to conduct the affairs and discussions leads to a reduction in costs, plain and simple.
Apart from the direct cost savings they provide in the involved processes, an e-parliament solution brings the diverse elements of a parliamentary or legislative institution onto a common platform that provides support across multiple platforms, devices, and locations. Additionally, some solutions like SBL’s e-parliamentary solution involve only a one-time investment and bring no recurring costs on licensing and other aspects.
A promising solution for digitalizing the parliament
I cannot stress enough about the environmental benefits and related aspects of this solution. A greener planet, cleaner air, reduced water usage, and a fresh atmosphere are far-reaching invaluable benefits. If this small state of Himachal Pradesh can achieve such positive results from the solution, you can do the math for the potential benefits in other states and countries. The multilingual support in these solutions extends the reach and utility beyond language barriers to provide greater transparency and accountability in governance.
I have no doubt that this solution that supports lawmakers would set an example for the efficiency and effectiveness that we can expect of such solutions. It is undeniably going to speed up various legislative processes and reduces costs significantly.
With the implementation of e-parliament being taken up by the Indian government in ‘mission mode,’ these are exciting times for everyone, for sure. Many countries and most states in India are also joining the bandwagon. For us at SBL, it is a matter of great pride and privilege that our solution is associated with such an initiative in India and at a global level too. We can be assured that governance and legislation are in good hands with applications like this since they make the whole process green, cost-efficient, quick, and transparent.