The Declaration on Parliamentary Openness calls to national parliaments for a commitment to openness and citizen engagement in parliamentary work. To this end, the Declaration brings out the importance of real-time publication of Parliamentary information.
Open Parliament Georgia Action Plan 2015-2016 also affirms significance of providing timely information in the sub-chapter 2.2. Proactive Disclosure of Annual Reports and Findings of the Parliamentary Committees, which states that the reports, findings, and statements of some committees are published and easily available at the parliamentary website. However, the annual reports of the committees are either not published, or published with delay. Neither are published the key and mandatory findings by the committees.
Therefore, Action Plan suggests the Parliament discloses its annual reports and findings of the Parliamentary Committees proactively. Main objective of it is making the legislative process transparent and available.
At the House Legislative Data and Transparency Conference held on February 2, 2012, speaker – Daniel Schuman made a speech about Benchmarks for Measuring Success for Legislative Data Transparency. The speaker underlined the importance of real-time publication, noting the goal for everything should be real-time publication. He claims, an amendment that’s going to be voted on in 2 hours needs to be online just as soon as it’s drafted and a bill that’s going to be voted on in 2 legislative days needs to go pretty quickly as well.
In his speech delivered on the conference organized by the House of Representatives in the USA, Daniel Schuman marked that online transparency reinforced by real-time publication is essential as it lets the American people and their elected representatives have a solid bases for a conversation about priorities; and most importantly, transparency is the cornerstone of a democracy.
It is true that paying immense attention to the internet as a mean to delivering information to the citizens is vital today. Since according to the ITU (United Nations specialized agency for information and communication technologies – ICTs) data, by the end of 2015, around 3,2 billion people will be using internet, out of which 2 million people are from developing countries. Even though there is no recent data available on the number/growth of Georgian internet consumers by 2015, 45% of Georgian population had an internet access in 2013. On the other hand, considering a stable growth in numbers of internet consumers up until 2013, and easier access to computers, increased and frequent utilization of smartphones since 2013, must imply that such circumstances would result in enabling more Georgians to have an internet access.
For past years, internet has been reshaping the ways people receive newses. Unequivocally, it is an empowering and convenient development since anyone with internet can go online whenever s/he desires and search for whatever picks his/her curiosity.
Globally, over the course of 15 years, internet penetration grew from around 6.5% to 43%. Therefore, the importance of publishing information online has risen. Moreover, providing it in real-time is significant for published information to have an actual effect since, only real-time published information can allow citizens to be involved in the policy making and have an input in democratic processes.
Even though one might think, the number of Georgian population using internet (45%) is not an impressive figure, it serves the function. For instance, putting information up online for almost half of the population indicates that civil society organizations, media, as well as regular citizens are informed. Consequently, these groups can play an essential role in disseminating published information.
For these reasons, Parliament of Georgia should publish its decrees and most importantly, an amendments made to the bill in a timely manner to empower citizens and give them a genuine opportunity to become aware with the executed changes and express their ideas through the appropriate means.
Hence, only real-time publication of legislative information can make citizens part of the decision-making process and reflect public idea as closely as it can. Similarly, publishing annual reports of the committees, the key and mandatory findings of them, is significant to promote citizen engagement in parliamentary activities and make them familiar with regular committee occupation.
The Declaration on Parliamentary Openness lists three principles that need to be paid attention for providing information with a better quality and preventing barriers for utilization of published information by the citizens. The principles are following: Accuracy – of the Parliamentary information, Timeliness – as the information disclosed needs to be provided as close to real time as possible for citizens to influence the legislative process, and Completeness – striving to make the full body of information categories available.
It is widely known, that even though laws, regulations are important to exist, it is more important that institutionalized organs, bodies are established to enforce them. Same was marked at the House Legislative data and Transparency Conference, where Daniel Schuman recommended the House to shoulder the responsibility of monitoring the lag time between introduction of reports, amendments, etc. and time they appear on the committee websites.
The Open Parliament Georgia Action Plan 2015-2016, suggests establishing Permanent Parliamentary Council on open and transparent governance. The council is supposed to be tasked with the development of the Open Parliament Action Plan and monitoring of the implementation of the commitments under the Open Parliament Georgia Action Plan. The Parliamentary Council could also work as an institute ensuring real-time publication of Parliamentary information by monitoring, measuring time from introduction of a draft bill to publishing it on a web-site, timely publishing of annual reports of the committees, etc. and Parliamentary Council could then publish its findings and make recommendations to improve real-time publication by the Parliament.
Consequently, implementing real-time publication of Parliamentary information would be practiced and such practice, could vastly assist the citizens to be timely informed, hence be more engaged and effective in influencing the decision-making process and in overall, the work of the Parliament.