Open Parliament, the Senate in the Net (III): Citizen participation and presence of the Parliament in the Net

Notes from the Open Parliament: the Senate in the Net, organized by the Spanish Senate in Madrid, Spain, in November 12, 2012. More notes on this event: senadored.

Round table on Citizen participation and presence of the Parliament in the Net. Chairs the Vicepresidente 1º del Senado D. Juan José Lucas.

D. José Antonio Manchado Lozano. Senador del Grupo Parlamentario Socialista.

Citizens have to participate, to engage in the management of public things.

Institutions can ignore them, listen to them or even sit and talk with them. Given the fact that politics is hugely discredited, it is maybe time to sit and speak with people in order to regain legitimacy and trust in institutions.

There is a big difference between transparency, which is a responsibility of institutions, and participation, which comes from an engaged citizen. Transparency is the duty of institutions, participation is a right of the citizen. And participation has to be fostered. Participation is not only be informed, or accountability, or tell one’s opinion, but being also able to have an influence in decision-making. So, the Senate — and Parliaments in general — should enable the participation of citizens in their daily work, so that nothing that happens within the Parliament’s walls has not been co-participated by the citizens.

It is important noting that the world wide web does not begin and end in the Senate’s web page: this is only the institutional headquarters of the Senate, but people are everywhere in the Net, especially social networking sites.

D. Narvay Quintero Castañeda. Senador del Grupo Parlamentario Mixto.

The website of the Senate could turn into another chamber, to be added to the existing parliamentary groups, commissions, etc. Websites or social networking sites can be used to bridge the chasm between the citizenry and politicians as they are open gates for information sharing and conversation.

D. Ismael Peña-López. Profesor de Derecho y Ciencias Políticas de la Universitat Oberta de Catalunya.

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D. David Álvarez. Analista Político en Redes Sociales.

Who are the actors of online politics?

Citizen activism in the Net:

  • Intensive use of social networking sites.
  • Collective intelligence: collaboration, participation, co-creation.
  • Financing practices: crowdfunding.
  • Data journalism-based practices.
  • Elimination of intermediaries.
  • No one has the exclusivity of knowledge.
  • Shared political experiences.

Political institutions are not usually very active in social networking sites. Indeed, there are more people not directly related with political institutions talking about them on social networking sites than people directly related with these institutions.

Survey on “Social intelligence” by Territorio Creativo:

  • Does the institution measure the impact of its communication on the Net?
  • Does the institution have spaces for interaction and collaboration?
  • Does the institution have a protocol for interacting with the citizen in social networking sites?
  • Does the institution listens to what is being said in social networking sites?
  • Does the institution measure its online reputation?
  • Does the institution use the Internet for pattern recognition, to identify behaviour trends?
  • Does the institution share information within the institution?
  • Does the institution foster open innovation?


Open Parliament: the Senate in the Net (2012)

Open Parliament, the Senate in the Net (II): Accessibility and Reuse of public sector information

Notes from the Open Parliament: the Senate in the Net, organized by the Spanish Senate in Madrid, Spain, in November 12, 2012. More notes on this event: senadored.

Keynotes on Accessibility and Reuse of public sector information.

Fundación Sidar. Loic Martínez Normand. Presidente de la fundación

Accessibility: guaranteeing that the web is available for everyone independently of their capabilities. This definition has been broadened when more people are disabled in different ways (e.g. temporarily because of broken arm) and because of the proliferation of different displays with which one can access the world wide web. Functional diversity: sensory (sight, hearing, touch), motor (mobility, skills), cognitive (comprehension, language, learning).

Principles in accessible design: a website has to be perceptible, comprehensible, operable, robust. The new website scores average, but is much better than the previous one.

Reuse of public sector information.
Fundación Civio. Mar Cabra. Directora de la fundación.

Some experiences in transparency and reuse of public sector information:,,

There is a lot of information that already exists, that has been paid by the taxpayers, and that is not used because it has not been made publicly available. There even is the possibility to make business/profit by reusing public sector information.

Make available:

  • Legally, by making it freely (no copyright) available by law.
  • Technically, so that computers can “read” the information (e.g. no scanned images, but text documents).
  • Humanly, presenting information in visual ways that humans can better understand than long lists of rows in tables.

Availability is also about being able to provide feedback, and providing feedback in a transparent way (e.g. no through forms).


Open Parliament: the Senate in the Net (2012)

Open Parliament, the Senate in the Net (I): Transparency and communication

Notes from the Open Parliament: the Senate in the Net, organized by the Spanish Senate in Madrid, Spain, in November 12, 2012. More notes on this event: senadored.

Round table on transparency and communication. Chairs the Vicepresidenta 2ª del Senado Dª. Yolanda Vicente González.

Dª Mónica Almiñana Riqué. Senadora del Grupo Parlamentario Entesa pel Progrés de Catalunya.

How can we analyse the state of transparency in Spanish olitics?

The first law on the right to information is the US Freedom Act (1966)… when Spain did not have even a Democracy. That is, access to information still is a young matter in Spain. In the meanwhile, there’s been a technological revolution that has radically transformed itself the definition of access to information.

In Spain, the third problem is political parties and the political class, only below the economic crisis and unemployment. Notwithstanding, people still believe that democracy is the best of systems. People feel that they are not informed about what is happening in politics and people are occupying streets and plazas to demand for a better democracy.

There is the threat that this political disaffection becomes structural, yielding to unrest, radicalization of the political discourse, etc.

Dª Carmen Azuara Navarro. Senadora del Grupo Parlamentario Popular.

In the new website of the Senate the focus has been put on transparency, on letting know the citizen what is being dealt with in the Senate.

Besides transparency, the digitization of most information will mean more efficiency in terms of costs of communications.

D. Rafael Rubio. Profesor de Derecho Constitucional de la Universidad Complutense.

The Senate has a new website: what now? what comes next?

It is no use that the website aims at transparency if the attitudes of the Senate are not towards transparency. How will citizens use the information at their reach?

Some threats:

  • Representatives are digitally illiterate.
  • Citizens do not know about the processes in the Parliament.
  • Citizens are also digitally illiterate.
  • Too much effort to use.
  • Lack of dialogue.
  • Too much information and too complex.
  • Divides: digital, political, cultural, social.
  • Lack of answers or ability to provide answers.
  • Self-criticism: knowing what works and what does not.

So, what for a new website? To reinforce the (traditional) characteristics of the Senate: representativeness, transparency, accessibility, responsibility, efficacy, openness, confidence, better communication, rationalizing the legislative process, new ways of participation.

The Senate has to have its own voice, without intermediation, enabling communication.

We have to be aware of (1) whom are we talking to and (2) what are their languages so we can adapt our message to them.

And there is an urgent need for inter-institutional collaboration.

D. Luis Izquierdo. Presidente de la Asociación de Periodistas Parlamentarios.

Spain does not have a long tradition in matters of culture of transparency.

Transparency International España has several indices that measure the quality of transparency in Spanish municipalities, provinces and autonomous communities.

Transparency is not only about publishing information, but about getting it to the citizen.

And transparency is not only about the public sector, but also about the private sector, especially big corporations that concentrate big amounts of power.

Media have alto to be transparent. And citizens should be demanding it. There is no accountability in media.

Citizen protests have demanded more transparency to governments and media and these protests have spurred many initiatives related to transparency.


Open Parliament: the Senate in the Net (2012)

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