A good year for… parliaments in the digital age?

Reviewing some notes last night and I found a list of ‘must-haves’ for parliament websites. I compiled it as a stream-of-consciousness in one of the sessions at the ‘Parliaments in the Digital Age‘ workshop, which was organised by the Centre for Legislative Studies (Hull University) and the Oxford Internet Institute. I promised I’d pass it on to the organisers, Cristina Leston-Bandeira and Steve Ward, but never got round to it. Before I do send it over I thought I’d put it up here and see if anyone wants to add to it or refine it (it follows at the end of this post).

The list will strike some people as like-soooo-obvious but they’d be surprised to find out that a lot of parliaments haven’t even got round to the basics. One parliament that has been working hard to go beyond the basics is the UK Parliament. It’s been under a lot of pressure to do so and progress has been slow. But like a model waiting to happen, Westminster has all the pieces in place – the technology, the budget, the staff. Mind you, having the bits is one thing, what will glue them all together is the political will. What till now has been a project led by officials, now depends on the involvement of MPs and Peers. It’s time to follow up on all the rhetoric.

I’m confident that after all the nervous caution, the 2007/8 parliamentary year will be a good one for the Westminster in the area of online engagement. I’m confident that they’ll ramp up their online consultations and get ePetitions in place. More significantly, I think we’ll also see Parliament finally figure out how to make blogging work for them.

Draft ‘Must-have’ Spec for Parliament Websites (in no particular order)

  • Homepage (anticipating a smart-arse suggestion :) )
  • Multilingual
  • Email alerts
  • RSS
  • Annotatable record
  • Push-content/recommendations
  • Deliberative forums
  • News/updates
  • Personalised user-dashboards
  • CMS
  • Petitioning
  • Search
  • Sitemap
  • Members’ directory and profiles
  • Vote record
  • Bill tracker
  • Gallery
  • Webcasting
  • Screen reader
  • Events calendar
  • Ticket booking
  • Surveys
  • Committees section
  • Committee blogs
  • Chamber section
  • Corporate section
  • Educational section
  • History section
  • Resources for citizens
  • Library section
  • FOI response directory
  • Annual reports
  • Webchats
  • Statistics (for user and administrator use)
  • Tagclouds
  • ?… any additions (add as a comment)

4 thoughts on “A good year for… parliaments in the digital age?

  1. OK then, it’s Friday afternoon and I’ll start the process off:

    Some of the features in your list are common for all corporate websites, others are specific to parliaments – I’m guessing you’ll be grouping the features under headings like for example ‘supporting legislative functions’, ‘contact with constituents’ ?

    As a general feature, how about intranet and/or extranet – ie providing secure access to systems – for MPs and their staff when they are physically away from Parliament? (This ties into mobile access generally)

    Probably worth explicitly mentioning ‘accessibility’ too

  2. Suggestions on grouping much appreciated. As meta-categories I might bunch it under i) front- and ii) backend functionality, and then start refining it along the lines you are thinking. That way it would allow incorporation of features for extranets. I think I’ll leave intranets out of it for now, though I agree they are an interesting area.

  3. Thanks. Mobile access is certainly a growing requirement, at least from MPs’ perspective.

    As you imply, there are many possible dimensions for categorising applications – there’s been quite a lot of previous work on categorisation of e-participation tools which it might be useful for you to be able to refer back to?

    One recent example is a HICCS 2007 paper A Framework for Assessing eParticipation Projects and Tools Efthimios TAMBOURIS, Naoum LIOTAS, Konstantinos TARABANIS – it’s based on work done as part of the Demo-Net project.

    From a practical point of view, as well as looking a functionality, an summary of the effort required by the end-user, by the stakeholders/managers (understanding feedback/usage patterns) and ICT-administrators might be useful

    Anyway, this is getting too complicated for a blog-chat system! Feel free to email me if you want to take this further.


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