Open Parliament for Local Government: São Paulo's Experience

Eduardo Tuma

Résumé

[extract] In recent years parliaments have begun to exploit advances in information and communication technologies (ICT) to support their many functions and modernize their institutions. While the executive branch has taken steps to address these issues at national, regional and global levels, parliaments need to play a more proactive policymaking role as promoter of the principles of the World Summit on the Information Society through their legislative and oversight responsibilities and to be more active in applying new technologies in their own environment.

It is evident that ICT are one of the important tools that parliament can use as it seeks to realize these values and objectives. Three broad, non-exhaustive examples should be considered. First, transparency, accessibility and accountability, as well as people’s participation in the democratic process, largely depend on the quality of information available to members of parliaments, parliamentary administrations, media and the society at large, and on citizens’ access to parliamentary proceedings and documents. Both can be improved through ICT applications, which in turn could dramatically strengthen the policymaking process.

Second, the efficiency of the internal business practices, of services to members and staff, and the performance of the organization as a whole may impact on the effectiveness with which parliament carries out its legislative process and scrutiny functions, and members their duties. Both the efficiency and effectiveness can be increased by a sound adoption of new technology coupled, if necessary, with organizational re-engineering. Third, full participation in the emerging global information network is crucial for an institution that wants to avoid marginalization. Parliaments today are confronted with a new reality of information integration and knowledge exchange, as well as with an increasing demand for inter-parliamentary cooperation. And that requires a change in the way parliaments act internally and in the way they interact with the outside world, including through the use of ICT.

Below, we question to what extent it is possible to control social changes through the insertion of new elements in the legislation. We will turn to the systemic approach, as developed by Niklas Luhmann, to support the analysis of this question, which initially requires that it be recalled.

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