The Inter-American Development Bank (IABD) has launched Virtual Congress, a web platform available in open source that connects the legislative body with citizens, which makes it easier for citizens to participate in the legislative process and to make their ideas known to parliamentarians.
Virtual interaction between citizens and legislators is essential. It allows more options for participation in legislative activity. for citizens, civil society organizations, or other interest groups that are geographically far from the Congress of their country or without resources to move, or could not attend on the day and the indicated time. It also eliminates the limits to the number of exhibitors who can present their opinions in person and have their availability limited. In this context, and as we have observed during these days of quarantine and remote work by COVID-19,
In this sense, it is important to have tools that allow the voice of the citizenry not to be lost in times of crisis. Platforms like the Virtual Congress give us a tremendous opportunity to maintain legislative activity and expand those traditional channels of legislative participation to transform them into virtual ones with the support of technology. Next, we explore the functionalities of the platform and how it is reused.
What can you do with the platform?
Through the Platform, people who register with their basic data may: (i) comment on bills and public consultations that are published on the Platform; (ii) propose that a bill be included in the virtual platform; (iii) adhere to the comments that most interest you or object to those with which you disagree; and (iv) obtain basic statistics by gender, age, or geographic region of participation.
The Virtual Congress allows users to vote for or against the bills, also, thanks to the indications of the users, improvements and particular needs of the citizenry can be identified concerning the bill debated.
Finally, the Virtual Congress has a registry in which the expert user, university professional with more than five years of experience in their area, can include their information in the database, in this way, it seeks to increase the diversity of the face-to-face or virtual participation in the commissions.
How was Virtual Congress created?
The Virtual Congress was held in open source to make it adaptable to any parliament, be it unicameral or bicameral, and thus, together, collaborate and improve the platform, which is expected to be beneficial to support and strengthen citizen participation and improve through of collective intelligence legislation.
The platform had its origin in the system called “Virtual Senator”, created in 2003 with the aim of publicizing the legislative process, that is, from an educational perspective. Over time, it became a platform for citizen participation.
Due to the increase in users and interest of the Virtual Senator, it was necessary to update it to make it more friendly, further encourage participation and incorporate technological improvements to analyze the comments registered and create a report with views for the commission that is debating the corresponding bill. . The Chilean National Congress, through the Bicameral Transparency Group, requested support from the IDB to expand the platform’s functionalities, making it more agile and friendly, and extending its implementation to the entire Legislative Branch.
This update of the Virtual Senator is called Virtual Congress and expands the contribution of collective intelligence to both the Senate and the Chamber of Deputies of Chile along with new features and responsive design. Thus, it is possible to enrich the debate, since parliamentarians, in addition to being able to debate the observations received in the Platform, could present as indications those that they consider improving the bill.
In Colombia, People doesn’t want that senators work online
Meanwhile, the IADB is working to create an online platform for a virtual congress where people can participate, Colombian people reacted against the idea of senators working in online sessions.
Users in Twitter attacked to the senators for working online. Even the Supreme Court of Justice of Colombia declared that that was not allowed. But in an ironic twist, they decided it in a virtual session.
Some of them qualified the decision like laziness, and an excuse to avoid the work.