Rome, July 2009
After promoting different projects on e-democracy and e-partecipation in Italy (openpolis.it, voisietequi.it), the openpolis association, a spin off of the DEPP association, has officially presented to the public a new web application wholly dedicated to the monitoring of the italian Parliament: https://www.openparlamento.it.
This is the first of a series of three articles in which we describe some of the relevant features of the web application.
In this first article we describe the application, its vision and why, in our opinion, it can help build a base of informed citizenship and improve the democratic process.
The other two articles will focus on two particular instruments of the application, discussing various interesting aspects related to them that brought quite an array of reactions from the public.
openparlamento.it is a rather complex web application, where citizens can gather detailed informations on the proceedings of the acts presented by the elected officials at national level.
It allows one to follow an act in its path across the two perfectly symmetrical chambers (La Camera and Il Senato), from its presentation as a proposal, to its final approval.
It tracks all the votations, highlighting rebel voters. It tracks who presented an act, and wether as a first-signer or a co-signer. It also tracks speeches of officials on given acts.
Access to textual documents related to an act is easy and documents can be emended by users online, using an innovative shared comments system (eMend), that allows discussions on a particular act to take place.
Users can describe the acts, using their own words, in a wiki subsystem, acts are ratable and commentable, too.
All acts are tagged with consistent arguments by an editorial board, and that allows to know what’s going on and who’s doing what in relation to a subject.
An event-handling subsystem allows the generation of news. Whenever an act is presented, it moves towards approval or refusal, a votation takes place, someone gives a speech or anything worth noticing happens, news are generated. A dedicated web page and a customized daily e-mail, containing just the news related to those acts, politicians or arguments monitored by the user, allows him/her to follow almost in real time what’s going on.
Monitoring arguments is the most remarkable activity. Being time- and resources-consuming it is also not for free, though. A payment model is being discussed with the users during this free-demo phase, and we hope to come to reasonable commercial terms.
openparlamento.it sits on the shoulders of giants, those giants being TheyWorkForYou and OpenCongress.
The idea of materializing all the principles regarding the transparency of elected officials’ activities into a live web site was what we grabbed from those projects.
In Italy, public scrutiny is invoked as a distant and impossible principle. It is left to the official media and it is usually strongly biased, especially when it comes to the political arena.
We wanted to build a place on the web where citizens could inform themselves, controlling the activities of elected officials in the national parliament.
We asked ourselves: what if citizens could comment, rate and describe with their own words the acts presented by their representatives at La Camera and Il Senato? What if people could vote these acts so you can compare elected officials’ and citizens’ votes in the same context?
More than that, we wanted to give the public a tool that could help to understand a bit better what’s being done in the parliament and who’s doing what, and to possibly jump in the process, too. Uncensored.
That is one of the pillars of powerful lobbying: to know the real connections between the informations.
And that’s what we wanted the project to be: just a block of a series of tools that allowed for an improved relation between the represented and the representatives.
to be continued …