In July this year, the Law Factory (a partnership between Regards Citoyens and Sciences Po) will be hosting a two-day conference on Open Legislative Data. Open Legislative Data is a term mixing Open Data (the idea that certain data should be freely available to everyone to use and republish as they wish) & Legislative Studies (the academic study of parliaments and legislators). The aim of the conference is to bring together open data activists and practitioners with academics from the world of legislative studies. It’s hoped that this sort of event will lead to greater collaboration and coordination of research and action and that activists and academics will be given an opportunity to learn from one another’s work.
The marriage between new technologies and old legislatures brings about a lot of critical questions for the state of representative democracy. The conference hopes to consider questions such as:
- What do these new tech tools tell us about the functioning of legislatures and their role and position in the 21st century?
- How do new processes of cataloguing and visualising parliamentary activities impact parliaments across the globe?
- Who is behind the drive to open up parliamentary data? What roles do MPs, parliamentary clerks, hacktivists and ordinary citizens have to play and who will win?
- Does more online access to parliamentary activities change the public’s perception of parliaments and of specific MPs?
- Finally, is there a kind of parliamentary resistance towards the computer age? Are there parliamentary activities that simply cannot be captured or explained via technology?
When we first heard about this conference, we thought it would be great to have input from African organisations and individuals interested in parliamentary informatics. Events such as this often suffer from a Eurocentric or American-dominated perspective. With that in mind, we have awarded a grant of up to £10,000 to Sciences Po to pay for the flights and accommodation costs of representatives of African organisations with an interest in parliamentary informatics. These representatives will be able to talk about their work and the challenges faced by activists wishing to open up parliamentary data in countries such as Nigeria and Kenya.
If you’d like to find out more about the conference or are interested in attending, please check the conference homepage.
With thanks to The Law Factory for part of the text of this blog post.