• Digital resilience in the Legislative during Covid-19

  • Throughout history, technological advances have made possible for humanity to restructure its public decision-making mechanisms and personal relationships. The search for integrating technological solutions in the decision-making process is not simple, much less novel, since it may require changes in the power dynamics.


    In the World's first democratic experience, citizens were called upon to deliberate on matters of political daily life, where they exercised their right to vote verbally, or by depositing stones of different colors in ballots called psephos. Today, two and a half millennia later, we are already talking about remote deliberation and intensive use of artificial intelligence technology in the legislative process.


    As explained by Ronaldo Lemos, our brains are being developed for hundreds of thousands of years, our political institutions are being forged over the past two and a half millennia and futuristic technologies are being developed on a daily basis.


    The current crisis caused by SARS-CoV-2 COVID-19 globally poses a series of challenges on how to maintain essential activities for society, such as the legislative deliberation process, and the effectiveness of the response given by Parliaments to health demands and resource allocation.


    Legislative activity is central in this moment of crisis, but it requires changes that can impact core aspects on its procedures. At a time when clusters of people pose a risk to public health, Parliament is provoked to reflect on how to build consensus and deliberate remotely, and there are already experiments in digital transformation in this regard.


    For years, some legislative houses in Brazil have tried to test new ways of using technology in order to support their activities, something we call LegisTech - or digital transformation processes in the legislative to improve their effectiveness in the production of different nomenclatures of laws and in the supervisory role.


    When large technology companies first recommended their employees to work from home - a common practice in this sector - it opened up the discussion in other sectors of society, such as the legislative, previously resistant to the idea, to keep its functioning during the crisis.


    A special highlight is the initiative of the House of Representatives and the Senate in Brazil to develop a virtual floor, called the Remote Deliberation System (SDR). We are talking about a process of building a digital governance that requires effort, investment and time and not a leap greater than its technical capabilities, let alone something that was not pacified across different leaders. In this particular tool, it will be possible for the Speaker of the House and the President of the Senate to use such a tool in deliberations during the crisis. Once an SDR session is adjourned, all committee meetings are suspended.


    In particular, the virtual floor experience has also been implemented since 2019 by the São Paulo City Council in voting on less complex projects - such as commemorative dates and naming rights - and it should now have the opportunity to be tested in other more complex deliberations.


    Despite the focus attention on the proposed responses to the Covid-19 crisis, legislative houses in Brazil have assumed a national and international role with initiatives that seek to propose the best integration of technology in support of legislative activity, such as the development of the InfoLeg information application, the Interparliamentary Cloud and the Ulysses artificial intelligence of the Chamber of Deputies and the e-cidadania portal of the Federal Senate.


    All the initiatives mentioned above are working together with Bússola Tech in building a LegisTech ecosystem, where other Legislative Houses can also access this expertise to build greater digital resilience and have the means to digitalise and have the means to answer future crisis.


    The current resilience of the Legislative Power in responding to the Covid-19 crisis with such speed and agility comes from a long standing process of building expertise, from a constant try and error process, which is essential for public innovation, but faces outstanding challenges to be implemented on the executive power. The Legislative Power has the capacity to better test and scale-up a series of innovation projects from a smaller scale, through its Members of Parliament Offices, as well as its public servants. Such projects are focused on the improvement of the legislative process as well as the legislative production - different Countries have a series of nomenclatures of legislative production.


    In order to boost the digital transformation movement in the Legislative Houses, it is necessary to recognize and share the best experiences already in place in the legislative. Copy it, adapt it and paste it. During a research project implemented in 2019, Bússola Tech has mapped that recognizing outstanding projects has a positive effect on the public servants moral, even inspiring them to go further their normal obligations, in a positive and propositive way.


    In this regard it's possible to see a flourishing ecosystem at the Brazilian National Congress, with a series of high level projects being implemented and a leading initiative to award the best public servants in the Brazilian Parliament, an initiative called "Gente que Inspira" (People who Inspired) from SindiLegis. At the state and local level it isn't possible to see an organised movement to map and recognise the innovation cases in the legislative houses, before the LegisTech Forum.


    The collaboration between the Legislative Houses in the three spheres, together with the entrepreneurial ecosystem, can enhance the implementation of projects like those mentioned above, expand the range of digitalization and make them more resilient.


    The extension of the SARS-CoV-2 COVID-19 crisis is the result of new mobility technologies, in a way of living in society inherent to the technological revolution. A problem enhanced by 21st century technologies, requires a response that uses 21st century tools and methods. An even more complex puzzle for the legislative process and for building consensus, in which some houses see the results of years of investment and testing.

  • Luís Kimaid

    Fábio Almeida