In a continuous effort to enhance participation and direct communication between citizens and their elected Members of Parliament (MPs), the Botswana Speaks Parliamentary Initiative is an eDemocracy project that will enable citizens, traditional leaders and local kgotla assemblies in four constituencies of Botswana (Nata/Gweta, Boteti North, South East South and Maun West) to share their views and policy concerns with their elected representative.
Botswana Speaks Parliamentary Initiative will provide and pilot a user-friendly, innovative open-source Parliamentary Communication System (PCS) which will allow citizens to send messages directly via the online portal or by the means of text messages (SMS) on a dedicated line and then they can be viewed by the MPs for response.
Four Members of the Parliament are involved in this pilot project in the constituencies of Hon. Rayner B. Makosha (Nata/Gweta), Hon. Slumber Tsogwane (Boteti North), Hon. Odirile Motlhale (South East South) and Hon. Tawana Moremi (Maun West). These MPs will be able to gather citizens’ views and input on issues and policy discussed in the Parliament via text messages and via a web platform.
Thus, Botswana Speaks Parliamentary Initiative is an ICT-based Parliamentary Communication System (PCS) aiming to enable governments to improve parliamentary efficiency, increase policy responsiveness and expand good governance through the use of Information and Communication Technologies (ICT). Moreover, it will enable the MPs to better fulfil their function as policy makers and representatives in the broader objective of achieving wider societal development goals.
The project will run for 18 months from September 2012 to March 2014, with a pilot phase scheduled to start in the four constituencies in April 2013. This pilot program aims to build, evaluate and standardize an innovative ICT-based e-Parliament Framework designed to support MPs, citizens and local administrations in their efforts to execute their social contract.
In this context, SIDA (the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency) co-funds this project with a consortium of multiple partners: the Parliament of Botswana, eGovlab at the University of Stockholm/ Department of Computer and Systems Sciences (DSV) and Government to You (Gov2u).
Africa comprises different political regimes, historical experience and cultural, religious, economic and geographical contexts. Moreover, there are areas of insecurity and areas of stability that manage to coexist. Some African countries have experienced, or are still experiencing, sustained periods of peace, security, economic and political stability and democratic participation, while others remain mired in long-term conflict.
Interconnection between citizens and their elected representatives is crucial to promote eDemocracy, enhance good governance and parliamentary effectiveness through ICT development, as well as will allow people have easier access to eParticipation procedures. Such a process must therefore be developed to strengthen Africa's position in the world’s political scene and economy.
In this context, Botswana Speaks Parliamentary Initiative will provide and pilot a user-friendly, innovative open-source Parliamentary Communication System (PCS) through which Members of Parliament in four constituencies of Botswana (Nata/Gweta, Boteti North, South East South and Maun West) can view citizens’ messages and aggregate them to discern meaningful policy preferences that will lead to actions with wider societal impact.
The project idea is developed being based upon the EC and UN political framework. The Strategy for Africa is the European Union's response to the challenge of getting Africa back on the track of sustainable development and of meeting the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) by 2015. In particular, the Communication from the Commission to the Council, the European Parliament and the European Economic and Social Committee of 12 October 2005 [COM(2005) 489 final] describes the EU Strategy for Europe “Towards a Euro-African pact to accelerate Africa’s development” mentioning that “Despite the progress made in Africa, the road towards good governance remains long. With a view to reforming the State, the EU will work towards building effective and credible central institutions, to which end it will define a Governance Initiative in support of the African Peer Review Mechanism. It will reinforce respect for human rights and democracy, develop local capacity and encourage the decentralization process, with the aim of promoting democracy and development”. As a long-standing partner and close neighbour the EU and its Member States are well placed to help Africa provide a decisive boost to this process.
In a longer perspective, Botswana Speaks will enhance Botswana’s Government Capacity to achieve the Millennium Development Goals and to fulfill its Vision 2016 Development Strategy and eGovernment Policy.
Description of target users and groups
Botswana Speaks Parliamentary Initiative will build, evaluate and standardize an innovative ICT-based e-Parliament solution that is addressed to various strategic stakeholders’ groupings that are identified in Botswana regions, as well as in other ACP Parliaments, national assemblies, regional parliamentary institutions and bodies. The Parliament of Botswana, the Members of the Parliament, the Parliamentary staff and IT staff, the Government and Ministries of the Republic of Botswana, the local authorities of Botswana, academia such as the University of Botswana and student associations, researchers, IT experts, research associations, institutions, citizens, civil society, NGOs, media are all stakeholders with a genuine interest in projects focused on Africa and ICT solutions. The target groups are not restricted to Africa but expanded to Europe and to the international level as well.
All target groups will remain fully abreast of technological developments and project achievements, have the opportunity to influence them, provide feedback, share knowledge and exchange good practice. The ICT Parliamentary Communication System will be a toolkit that will be available after the completion of the project and will serve them to evaluate, plan and manage relevant initiatives in which they are involved.
Description of the way to implement the initiative
Botswana Speaks Parliamentary Initiative will build, evaluate and standardize an innovative ICT-based e-Parliament Framework, the Parliamentary Communication System (PCS), designed to support the Members of the Parliament (MPs) of Botswana, citizens, local administrations and assemblies to communicate and increase parliamentary responsiveness and effectiveness. The implementation of the project’s mission and objectives is based on both technical developments and on dissemination and communication strategies and activities that will widely promote the project’s solution.
In a nutshell, the pilot project will develop and customize the PCS. This application will be deployed in four constituencies (Nata/Gweta, Boteti North, South East South and Maun West) to be tested in real environment. All feedback received by the users will be evaluated and analyzed in order to improve and consolidate the e-Parliament application, the PCS.
Finally, the e-Parliamentary framework developed will be widely promoted in order to achieve its potential adoption in other constituencies and in Parliaments of other East African and Southern African countries. Developed tools, lessons learnt, knowledge and experience of the project will be assembled into a toolkit for the purpose of replication. It is expected that the fully functional Parliamentary Communication System will be a scalable solution offering a new ICT application in the everyday work of Members of Parliament with regard to their interaction with citizens/users and a better implementation of their societal contract.
Botswana Speaks Parliamentary Initiative will develop, evaluate and exploit a robust ICT-Parliamentary Communication System (PCS) through which citizens, traditional leaders and Members of Parliament (MPs) in four peripheral constituencies in Botswana (namely Nata/Gweta, Boteti North, South East South and Maun West) will be able to share and exchange views, concerns and opinions. The system will allow citizens to send messages directly via the online portal or by text messages (SMS) on a dedicated line which will be uploaded automatically into the tracker, and viewed regularly by the MP for response. Equipped with Geospatial information systems, the web-based platform will be enhanced with advanced analysis tools, allowing each MP to aggregate messages by policy category, thus discerning specific policy preferences and feedback in the selected constituency, which in turn, will enable MPs to better fulfill their function as policy makers and representatives, in the broader objective of achieving wider societal development goals. The proposed software application is user-friendly, open-source and cost-effective, and can be seamlessly integrated in the everyday functioning of Parliaments. The constituency case tracking management platform will be built on Joomla!®, an open source Content Management System, which is currently used in more than 200 countries (47 are in Africa) to build and maintain over 3,113 Government web sites. Finally, the PCS will employ a dynamic user interface consisting of geospatial information system based on Google maps, decision support system, reporting system (standard and customizable, exportable statistical reports), various interfaces based on the users’ type, system authentication and Single sign-on with the website of the National Assembly of Botswana.Technology choice: Open source software
Main results, benefits and impacts
Botswana Speaks Parliamentary Initiative will build, develop, evaluate, standardize and promote for replication an innovative ICT-based e-Parliament Framework which will ensure the communication of citizens with their elected representatives in the Parliament of Botswana. The Parliamentary Communication System (PCS) will allow citizens to send messages directly via the online portal or by the means of text messages (SMS) on a dedicated line which will be uploaded automatically into the tracker, and viewed regularly by the relevant Member of Parliament for response.
In this context, the impact and added value for the involved stakeholders of the project are described as follows:
- New technologies are used and implemented in the context of political traditions, therefore fostering a stronger integration of ICT within established participatory traditions.
- The Parliament of Botswana in general will be introduced and provided with an innovative and long-term ICT solution. The innovative Parliamentary Communication System. It will allow the improvement of parliamentary efficiency and better governance by taking into account public input, and by benefiting from training on the use of ICT tools for MPs and their staff.
- Impact on MPs and their staff, as the project provides them with training and capacity development in relation to using a new ICT application in the everyday work of the parliament and interacting with citizens.
- Impact on MPs and citizens of the four participating constituencies, as the platform will serve to improve dialogue between them while adopting and testing forms and methods of civic engagement.
In addition, expected outcomes and user satisfaction are listed below:
- Citizens will be able to express their views and opinions on topics related to their constituency and MPs will have an increased knowledge of citizens’ priorities and will be responsive and will execute better their parliamentary role by enhancing good governance and policy effectiveness.
- Increased interaction between citizens and MPs and enhanced citizens’ participation in the policy making, leading to an enhanced overall civic culture.
- MPs, Parliamentary ICT staff and local administration in Botswana will be able to leverage technology to support collaboration and active engagement in decision-making processes.
- Four MPs and their administrative staff will be trained on good governance using ICTs and open infrastructures.
- Innovative ICT application and its technology will be used in the everyday functioning of the Parliament of Botswana.
- Contribute to the Millennium Development Goals and the Botswana Vision 2016 Development Strategy and the country’s eGovernment Policy, as well as to the Strategy for Africa of EU policy.
- Bridge the digital divide, foster and expand the use of Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs) as key enablers for poverty alleviation, political and economic development.
Return on investmentReturn on investment: Not applicable / Not available
Track record of sharing
Botswana Speaks Parliamentary Initiative is an innovative project that will build an open source Parliamentary Communication System (PCS), will customize the user interface according to end-users specifications, will deploy this application and promote it widely to leverage the project results, lessons learnt and experience. As an ePractice case, it can be viewed and shared with many interested stakeholders and a large community of researchers that can learn from this case, benefit and share knowledge, stay abreast of its developments, as well as replicate the final application/solution.
The project can bring a great positive impact at regional, national and international level. To maximize the regional impact of this action, the consortium will encourage and promote the exploitation of its results, use a tested implementation methodology, and develop a software exploitation toolkit along with the associated training material to facilitate replication and uptake. The goal is to develop an innovative, fully functional Parliamentary Communication System, a user friendly and open-source ICT application that will be used as a best practice in other constituencies or Parliaments in the Southern and Eastern African region, in various Sub-Saharan African countries and also in other Parliaments all over the world if possible. The exploitation toolkit can be shared with interested Ministries, Government members, Parliamentary staff and public sector entities. Moreover, on top of the wide dissemination and communication of the project, the Botswana Speaks Parliamentary Initiative’s methodology findings will be shared among potential users and institutions at local, regional, national and international levels as a way to promote the use of the web-platform in other constituencies of Botswana and in other regions and countries.
Botswana Speaks Parliamentary Initiative will develop, evaluate and promote for replication an innovative ICT-based Parliamentary Communication System that will improve parliamentary efficiency, increase policy responsiveness, expand good governance, foster the direct communication and public consultation of citizens with their elected representatives in the Parliament of Botswana, build trust between citizens and their representatives, and will enable the Members of the Parliament of four constituencies who participate in the project to better fulfil their role as decision-makers.
Botswana Speaks Parliamentary Initiative will encourage and promote eDemocracy through an eParliamentary framework that will be developed, based on ICT technology. It will also implement the development goals of EU and UN policy frameworks.
Botswana Speaks Parliamentary Initiative will provide a scalable solution that can leverage the levels of social cohesion and update traditional administrative structures by integrating the active role of citizens and their participation in the policy-making.