A virtual desktop for the mobile European elected officials (eRepresentative)

Published on: 14/04/2008
eRepresentative is a research and development project that will create a virtual desktop to support mobile elected representatives. The focus of the application is the legislative process, and mainly the scrutiny of legislation through relevant committees. The rationale for this development is grounded firstly in current eGovernment research priorities, which seek technology support for improvements in the efficiency, inclusiveness, openness and accountability of public services and democratic processes. The technological rationale is that, while most of the assemblies are well served by intranet access to databases of legislative documents, these are either not available remotely (intranet/extranet) or, if they are, they are not designed to provide access on mobile devices.

Policy Context

A literature review by the European Parliaments Research Initiative (EPRI 2005) described the key challenges for Parliaments as being: “to support their members to become truly mobile workers; tackle problems of spam and email overload; deal with the problem of information overload through a ‘less cars not more motorways’ approach; improve the transparency and accessibility of external (i.e. public) information provision; establish formal e-consultation practices and capability; and explore the wider training requirements of parliamentarians needing to evolve in, rather than adapt to, an ICT-enabled environment.” In Europe, according to the aforementioned survey for the European Centre for Parliamentary Research and Documentation (ECPRD), over 90 % of the respondents (parliamentary officials) agreed that ICT could lead to more informed parliamentary decisions, create more interactive dialogue between MPs and the public and widen the parliamentary agenda. The 7 th European Conference of Members of National Parliaments on Information and Communication Technologies (Stockholm, October 2004) concluded that: - the necessity of finding a mobile working solution is increasing in light of increased technical feasibility and growing expectations of parliamentarians -The convergence of information and communication technologies raises complex questions? - There is a need for a consistent Mobile Working Strategy for Parliamentarians. eRepresentative is directly addressing these requirements.

Description of target users and groups

Elected representatives, civil servants and other stakeholders in five Parliaments and Elected Assemblies in Europe.

Technology solution

Technology choice: Open source software

Main results, benefits and impacts

The virtual desktop allows personalised interaction with, and integration of, relevant information for elected representatives to support their day-to-day committee work. - Make systems able to share information on a broad enough scale. - Allow representatives to work away from Parliament with more robust security. - Provide the right information at the right time, applying 'intelligent agent' technologies in the Parliamentary environment. - Stimulate inter-assembly collaboration by enabling them to share documents. eRepresentative desktop is: - A virtual desktop for representatives to work in the legislative process remotely, safely and easily: for example to draft a law, discuss it, introduce an amendment and vote its approval. All with appropriate security and without having to be present at every moment in the Assembly building. - Equipped with smart technologies to manage data overloads that representatives face in their work and enable seamless use of desktop with Parliaments' current systems. - Innovative user-friendly and mobile-capable security technologies that allow collaboration on legislative documents while meeting needs for integrity, authenticity and privacy. Over 70% MPs from the assemblies involved in the project stated that: - eRepresentative improves awareness of status of legislative proposals. - The discussion space prepared them better for meetings. - eRepresentatives is more convenient to use remotely than legacy search interface. - They are satisfied with the relevance of retrieved documents. - They are satisfied that eRepresentative allows them to share documents conveniently - They find poll results helpful in decision-making. - They believe secure discussion is likely to help wider discussion of proposals before they are registered. The more specific project objectives are: - To understand what it means to be a mobile elected representative and model the associated legislative services needed by them and the tasks they need to undertake. - To appreciate and model the information and information systems associated with legislative scrutiny of legislation and policy. - To specify and develop a virtual desktop environment for secure mobile working. - To deploy the “eRepresentative” desktop in a number of national, regional and local elected assemblies. - To critically evaluate its potential and usefulness for elected representatives and the impact on legislative services. The functional scope of the desktop in terms of top-level use cases: - to provide Inter-assembly search and retrieval - to track committee legislative actions - to provide committee events notification - to provide a secure discussion space - to provide remote e-polling for committees - to provide e-voting support for individual ballots

Return on investment

Return on investment: Not applicable / Not available

Lessons learnt

Lesson 1 - Facilitating the connection between representatives and the represented is primarily and intrinsically a cultural function – it is not a product of technology. The path to be covered by technology implementation should be closely linked to the current political structures and to the forms in which societies administer and adapt new technologies. Lesson 2 - The key challenge is to understand the character of the institution before incorporating ICT - e.g. is it a new or mature institution, what is the extent of its resources, is it elected through a majority or proportional electoral system. The risk of failure is heightened when technology is pushed as an end in itself without due attention to the extenuating factors outlined above; and if all stakeholders – including elected members, officials, committee chairs, the secretariat – are not equally involved. Scope: International