Features — 29 October 2013 — by Adele Ramos
National Assembly to have presence on Facebook

Belize was represented in Montevideo, Uruguay, last week by Eddie Webster, Clerk of the National Assembly, at a regional meeting for Parliaments of Latin America captioned, “ICT strategic planning and use of social media in parliaments.”

Whereas the National Assembly currently has a website, it has no presence on social media. Webster told Amandala today that a new Facebook page would be set up to improve the dissemination of information to the public.

The meeting was coordinated by the Global Center for ICT in Parliament, based on Rome, Italy. That center was launched by the United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs (UNDESA) in cooperation with the Inter-parliamentary Union (IPU) in the context of the 2005 World Summit of the Information Society (WSIS).

Webster said that the Global Center for ICT in Parliament is the same entity that helped with the establishment of Parliament’s existing website: http://www.nationalassembly.gov.bz/.

Webster said, in the context of the recent debate over the rape bill, that the people from the LGBT community were able to go on the website and get information to write an article in an LGBT magazine; however, the churches said they didn’t know the information existed. He said that if the Facebook page is set up, it would mean that Parliament can have a more direct contact with the people whom such bills directly affect.

The next step, said Webster, is for them to contact Idea Labs to have them set up the Facebook page, via which they can immediately begin to make information available to the public in a more interactive way.

Organizers of the Montevideo workshop said, “Today’s social media in particular have a great potential to facilitate the dialogue between citizens, their elected representatives and legislatures. They enable faster and more frequent interactive communication, providing new mechanisms for public engagement and participation. By offering new channels for two-way communication among individuals, they are having a powerful impact on the ability of citizens to build politically engaged communities able to put pressure on legislators and political groups.”

It added that, “The Regional Workshop intends to respond to some of the challenges faced by parliaments of Latin America, to budget and plan strategically the use of ICT both to enhance the effectiveness of their internal processes and to improve their communication and information services towards citizens.”

According to Mr. Webster, Panama, Costa Rica, Nicaragua, Guatemala, El Salvador, Mexico, Guyana, Barbados, Brazil and Chile were among the other countries represented in Montevideo.

Webster said that the Brazilians are advanced in the process, as they are already online and each member of Parliament has a Facebook page which the Parliament manages. Via such means, they also publicly disclose spending and financial claims, he said.

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