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A new IPU report shows that information and communication technology (ICT) is helping parliaments become better connected and more transparent, and that MPs are engaging more with people through social media and instant messaging. The report is being launched at the IPU’s World e-Parliament Conference taking place from 3-5 December in Geneva, Switzerland. At the conference, the IPU will also launch the Centre for Innovation in Parliament, a new resource to support the use of digital tools in parliaments.
The IPU World e-Parliament report is the fifth in a series that the IPU started with the United Nations 10 years ago. It shows how digital tools are transforming parliaments, and how new media are helping parliaments and MPs connect with new audiences. The report is based on two surveys: the first on parliaments covering 114 parliamentary chambers in 85 countries; and the second on MPs based on a sample of 168 serving legislators.
Gabriela Cuevas, IPU President, said “At a time when people are losing trust in their democratic institutions, new technologies can play a useful role in helping to rebuild that relationship. Parliaments need to harness the power of social media and new ways of communicating to reconnect with the people they represent. Technology is evolving every day and this has transformed the way we relate to and communicate with each other. In the same way, citizens’ expectations of their MPs are also changing. With the mere click of a button the world is within our reach, allowing us to access information, goods and services almost instantly. Politics cannot afford to lag behind. The use of new tools will allow us to strengthen our relationship with our representatives and consolidate our democracies based on a broader and more inclusive vision.”
Martin Chungong, IPU Secretary General, said “A parliament that uses new technologies to be more open, transparent and accountable is also a parliament that empowers its people to be more engaged in public life by providing better information and greater access to its activities. The IPU can help parliaments use ICT and digital tools more effectively and efficiently by providing the platforms for partnership and exchange.”
The IPU report finds that ICT is now firmly embedded in most parliaments. Parliaments see the most significant benefit of ICT as improving the volume of information they can offer the public via their websites. Of the parliaments surveyed, 24 per cent now publish data in open, reusable formats, although PDF files remain by far the most common document format.
More parliaments than ever use social media to communicate. Social media overtook TV and radio in the last report in 2016 as the most widely-used medium for communication to the public. In the 2018 IPU report it has pulled even further ahead, with 70 per cent of the parliaments using a social network and 68 per cent using Twitter. One in five parliaments now use instant messaging (such as WhatsApp), an increase of 154 per cent from the eight per cent reported in 2016.
However, established media, such as radio and broadcast television, are still important, particularly in countries where internet access is limited. About half of the parliaments still use regular broadcast TV channels to communicate externally. By contrast, 62 per cent now share video content via the internet, a significant increase compared with 43 per cent in 2016.
The IPU survey on MPs shows mobile technologies are ubiquitous; all members surveyed under 30 use them, as do 96 per cent of those over 60. Traditional broadcast media are still prevalent, but MPs are increasingly turning to newer, more interactive spaces to engage with their constituents. Three quarters of the MPs surveyed see e‐mail as the most important digital tool, followed by Facebook and WhatsApp.
Seventy-one per cent of MPs write their own social media content, while content for their websites tends to be written by their staff. One quarter of the members have no support or assistance for digital content and communication, while a third have one person or less.
At the World e-Parliament Conference, the IPU will also launch the Centre for Innovation in Parliament, a new partnership between the IPU and parliaments to support parliamentary innovation through improved use of digital tools. Based in Geneva, with parliamentary hubs distributed virtually and globally, the partnership aims to maximise the potential of digital tools in parliamentary business processes, communication and citizen engagement.
Through research, capacity-building and networking, the Centre will create and share good practices on the innovative use of digital tools and services in parliaments; produce practical guides for parliaments; and provide expert advice and access to networks of expertise. The parliaments of Brazil, Chile, Portugal and Zambia as well as the European Parliament make up the first group to commit to this new partnership.