Tag Archives: Latvia

Parliamentary monitoring website deputatiuzdelnas.lv

The parliamentary monitoring web-platform deputatiuzdelnas.lv  was created by the Latvian branch of Transparency International, “Delna”, purpose of which is to fight corruption and ensure transparency on all levels of  interaction in Latvia-  in politics, business and personal encounters.  The specific  aim of the website is to supervise the parliament in fields of anti-corruption, transparency and democracy-building as well as to encourage public interest in the activities of the MPs. Just as gudrasgalvas.lv, it was initially created as a pre-election project with the purpose to warn voters about the black spots in the reputation of election candidates (the project had a thorough methodology that allowed  to screen and research all the main candidates).

The website right now contains profiles of all 100 MPs, representing five political parties. New information is added to the website on monthly basis, updating data on the income of members of the MPs, Saeima plenary sessions and committee meetings attendance as well as different issues having to do with their public character and actions. Here’s a snapshot of what the profile looks like:

deputatiuzdelnas_deputataprofils

Whats more, the website also has an archive, which means the profiles of MPs from the previous governments are accessible for viewing – and all the information that has been gathered on the scandals and other shady issues they were involved previously …  if at all! Don’t get a wrong impression on Latvian politics! 🙂

In addition, Events’ Archive section is updated regularly by publishing brief investigative articles providing details of the events that are directly or indirectly related to corruption, ethical violations, questionable behavior, as well as events that have a direct or indirect impact on anti-corruption work, public participation and transparency.

See how it looks like in the next screenshot below – here you can see the general list of topics (for example, a) important corruption scandals; b) petty scandals; c) protests; d) bank crisis and other topics of importance to Latvian society in the areas of transparency) as well as the subsection on three of the scandals associated with misuses of EU funding!

DuDskandali

The website also allows the general public to directly follow some of the legislative process (dealing with topics of transparency, anti-corruption, institution building) in a straightforward, visually appealing and comprehensible way, highlighting who has proposed it, votes on the proposal, debates and commentaries by experts in the field. Like so:

DuDlikumprojekti

Similarly, the website provides profiles of parties and most significant happenings in relation to anti-corruptionand transparency-related issues. It also “ranks” MP’s according to various criteria – for example, who are the leaders in “abstention” (voting neither for, nor against a specific proposal – which might be characterized as a bit of a cowardly way of behaving in parliament), see below:

DuDatturas

In addition, the platform also offers viewers analysis (graphic or otherwise) of the overall politicians’ participation and activism, as well as legislative proposals:

deputatiuzdelnas_aktualitates_likumprojekti

Also, viewers are welcome to comment on any entry posted and engage actively, including asking a question to a MP which activates a widget that links this webpage to communication platform gudrasgalvas.lv! It looks like this:

DuSdeputats

However, should you actually visit the website’s News section, you will find that none of the posts have any comments on them. It might seem puzzling that a website providing such detailed and comprehensive overview of the legislative process and those responsible for its smooth running, would not enjoy interest and involvement on the behalf of the general public. From what we know – it is the same regarding all of the parliamentary monitoring websites! How do you think: why is that so? In the same way as gudrasgalvas.lv – deputatiuzdelnas.lv isvisited much more often shortly prior to elections (when it publishes information on the reputation of candidates!)

Compared to other parliamentary monitoring websites that we are aware of, deputatiuzdelna.lv invests  a tremendous amount of investigative work that has to be done by researchers – for instance, the information on scandals and new, important legislative initiatives cannot be gathered just by re-using information that is already available on the website of the parliament. Delna also has published a policy paper in December 2012 asking parliament to get more data online.

This is a great project that allows MP’s to be held accountable in a way that was impossible prior to the start of Internet era!

[Indra, with some additions from Iveta]

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‘Mūsu Valsts’ Discussion Platform

Musuvalsts.lv is a Latvian platform for crowdsourcing policy ideas.

Do you have an idea on what would motivate those people who have left Latvia to return? Post it on musuvalsts.lv! Maybe you know how to unite Latvian ethnic groups? Share it with other visa musuvalsts.lv! Other people will comment and vote on your idea.

That’s the basic idea of Manabalss.lv platform. As simple as that!

Here is a snapshot of what it looks like:

musuvalsts_screenshot

Musuvalsts.lv initiative was created on September, 2011  (prior to extraordinary parliamentary elections; we were probably the first nation on the planet to dismiss a parliament via referendum and call for extraordinary elections!) with a purpose to encourage the general public to get involved in a constructive discussion. The main objective was to ensure that the leading politicians take into account suggestions initiated and supported by the general public.

The vision underlying the project is to generate innovative ideas amongst members of the general public, irrespectively of the social networks or websites they use, so as to propose new legislation, as well as amend existing laws that aren’t functioning particularly well. The discussion platform itself was created by the Latvian social network draugiem.lv (often referred to as ‘the Latvian Facebook’) and has other Latvian web portals ( inbox.lv, tvnet.lv, delfi.lv un kasjauns.lv) involved as participants. Right now it is hosted by Centre for Public Policy PROVIDUS.

The hope was that, instead of anonymous complaining in the commentary sections of different news portals, the opinionated and active members of general public will use this platform for constructive debate and discuss matters that need urgent attention. At the same time, the web platform would also serve as a ‘meeting point’ for people  who on daily basis  use different social media networks and are all brought together here.

Ok, that’s the theory!

But how does it work in practice?

The idea crowdsourcing process gets activated whenever there is a respectable NGO or state agency that wants to crowdsource ideas. There is only one consultation process at a time. For example, at the moment (26.01.2013) you can see that a consultation on remigration (basically: bringing people back to Latvia!) has ended. It was a well-organized joint public – private sector endeavour.

Beginning in 2012, the Ministry of Economics of Latvia organized an expert working group on remigration: in autumn 2012 this working group came up with 7 suggestions. These suggestions were then subjected to public consultation – both, in traditional way and via musuvalsts.lv. The visitors of musuvalsts.lv could both vote and comment on those suggestions and make their own recommendations. As you can see, approximately 30 additional suggestions were made (there were more than that, but similar proposals were grouped together) and then given to Ministry of Economics! They needed this consultation in order to create a work plan on remigration.   We do not yet know what the Ministry has done with those suggestions, but we will try to keep you up-to-date! 🙂

[Indra & Iveta]

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E-communication tool GudrasGalvas.lv

 

http://gudrasgalvas.lv/

So this is an online platform (hosted by Centre for Public Policy PROVIDUS) providing voters and general public with an opportunity to interact with the MPs and ministers. In many ways it resembles a social networking website, like Facebook, for example, where each politician has his/her own profile, which includes a picture, Curriculum Vitae and their online appearances. Most importantly, though, it allows anyone to post a question or a suggestion to the politicians to which he/she is then expected to answer. You also get to see statistics of how active this particular politician is –  how often he/she logs onto the platform, how many questions he/she answers etc.

The one thing that most certainly makes this a valuable platform for democratic participation is that the voter is given an opportunity to directly interact with a certain politician –  not only via asking questions but also proposing concrete suggestions and solutions and receiving direct feedback on the  proposal (provided the given politician responds and engages actively which, as observed, has by and large been the case on most of the instances).

Here’s what it looks like:

screenshot_gudrasgalvas

However, as the evidence shows, the web-platform becomes actively visited shortly before the elections and is relatively quiet during the interim. The question remains, how do fix this? How does one increase civic activism?

[Indra]

There are several additional interesting features about this website. In the screenshot below you can see three of them in the profile of a MP:

1) the MP can not only answer a question posted by a voter, but also create a survey himself/herself. He can tell the broader public about the survey via twitter or other social networks, which is exactly how this particular MP got responses to her question!  Hence, this platform functions also as an e-consultation tool.

2) As you can see in this picture, this is not a strictly question-answer platform, but rather it allows a discussion to begin between a voter and a MP – this opportunity has been added to the website because the MP’s felt that they needed more opportunities to engage with their voters.

3) in the section called “media monitoring” a MP can check what is being tweeted about him or her (also their own tweets are stored here). This is one way of motivating MPs to visit this website more often.

GG1

Next screenshot shows some additional “motivational” features of gudrasgalvas.lv. There are several gamification elements spread throughout the website that are intended to motivate both MP’s and voter to be more active! For example, the MP’s who respond the most to questions or create survey/blogs get an activity badge and their names turn up on the first page of gudrasgalvas.lv as the most active MP’s. The experience of gudragaslvas.lv has shown that this is quite an effective way in encouraging participation.

Each visitor of gudrasgalvas.lv can create his/her own profile. All the questions asked by that user are being collected there (it is possible to get e-mail notification whenever they receive an answer), and he/she can also see how much points she has earned by surfing through the site, by having participated in surveys, by having asked questions etc. (see, the screenshot below – that user is currently the 70th most actvie user on gudrasgalvas.lv!) On the right side of the screenshot you can see the general statistics of gudrasgalvas.lv – until this day 16347 questions have been asked to candidates and MP’s. MP’s and candidates have answered 9463. Out of 100 Latvian MP’s, 87 have logged in gudrasgalvas.lv at least once.

The audience of gudrasgalvas.lv can vote for the MP of the week. Then a short video interview with that particular MP is made available on the website. The MP can also indicate the other ways how he or she prefers to communicate with voters: for example, via Twitter, Facebook, political party page etc.

GG2

Finally, gudrasgalvas.lv also functions as an accountability tool. Most of ministers and all of MP’s took part in elections where they were asked by gudrasgalvas.lv (which at the time was functioning as a communication website between election candidates and voters) to specify their motivation in taking part in election and 3 promises they could give to their voters (see below in the screenshot). This information was kept on the website, so every voter can judge for herself whether these promises have been kept and post questions about them. In addition to that, this website is also linked with another Latvian website deputatiuzdelnas.lv where the audience can find information on whether the MP has or has not been involved in some shady deals (we will tell more about this website in the future)!

GG3

In addition, there is also a widget freely avilable on gudrasgalvas.lv that can be embedded in any other website fully integrating with its functionality  – the widget allows the users of that particular website to ask questions to MP (for example, in the context of some news story). The Q&A then gets posted both at that website and also at gudrasgalvas.lv.

It looks like this (this is deputatiuzdelnas.lv website):

DuSdeputats

So, these are the main features of this multi-multi-purpose website …

What do you think about it? This is definitely something new for democracies – something less stiff and formal than usual parliamentary websites, there is quite a lot of youthful gamelike element integration. But is such an informal way of communicating with high officials something of benefit to democracies or not?

[additions by Iveta]

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