Latvia's online e-parliament goes live

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Latvia's parliament, the Saeima, has been operating in ad hoc virtual mode for several weeks as previously reported by LSM, but May 26 saw its first fully virtual sitting using the so-called e-Saeima technological tool.

The Saeima is one of the first parliaments in the world that is ready to work completely remotely during the crisis caused by COVID-19. Thanks to the new e-Saeima tool, parliamentary sittings can now be held remotely, with deputies staying outside parliamentary premises.

Until now deputies were sequestered in different rooms within the parliamentary complex while maintaining social distancing.

The first sitting of the remote parliament started at 2 pm, and was a baptism of fire for the new system with wide-ranging and hotly contested regional administrative reform among the first items on the agenda. 

The work of the Saeima will still be open to the public who can follow every debate and vote online.

"It is a great satisfaction that the Saeima, in cooperation with IT specialists, has been able to create a modern technological solution that allows the parliament to work successfully in emergency situations even when deputies are outside the parliament... it has been ensured that Saeima deputies can continue to perform their legislative work and exercise parliamentary oversight over the activities of the Cabinet of Ministers,” said speaker of the Saeima Ināra Mūrniece.

The new tool is a unique information technology solution created specifically for the needs of the Saeima. It provides the most important functionalities of parliamentary sittings - an opportunity for deputies to both debate and vote on the issues on the agenda. Both of these features work online in real time.

Deputies can connect to the e-Saeima environment on a special website using a secure authentication tool - e-signature. Parliamentarians can connect to the sitting via a computer with an internet connection.

Voting in the electronic environment is provided by three "buttons" - "for", "against" and "abstain". There is a 30-second vote window in voting mode, during which Members can change their choice. After the vote, the results of the vote appear on the screen according to the placement of the deputies in the usual Saeima Chamber.

The e-Saeima tool has been developed in an emergency mode in just a few weeks by the company I SIA, in response to the restrictions on assembly caused by the COVID-19 crisis and the need to switch to remote work, as well as the need for swift and legally sound decision making to implement what in many cases are urgent legislation.

A technological solution specially adapted to the work of the Parliament and specific procedures has been developed by the company I SIA, under the direction of project manager Kirils Solovjovs.

"We are honored and happy to have the opportunity to help our country. One of our goals in ensuring the development and implementation of the system is to show that it is possible to develop high-quality, functional and customized solutions for the work of public administration in a relatively short period of time,” said Solovjovs.

If the e-Saeima technological solution developed for the needs of an emergency situation proves itself and allows to ensure the quality of the work of the parliament, there is a possibility to use it more extensively to improve the daily work of the Saeima.

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