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NC parly embracing digital innovation

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The geographically vast province is already conducting 90% of its meetings virtually, with Covid-19 restrictions having curbed face-to-face meetings.

File image. Picture: Courtney Africa African News Agency

THE NORTHERN Cape Province, which has shifted most of its engagements to virtual platforms in line with Covid-19 lockdown restrictions, is set to explore best practice in this area in partnership with the Democracy Works Foundation (DWF) today.

The geographically vast province is already conducting 90% of its meetings virtually, with Covid-19 restrictions having curbed face-to-face meetings.

To build on this, the Northern Cape Provincial Legislature (NCPL) and DWF will hold a virtual event with the topic ‘Innovation in inclusive participation and building virtual Parliaments’. This will assist the Province to strengthen inclusive public participation during Covid-19 and beyond, using virtual platforms.

The NCPL is embracing the digital revolution and one of the opportunities that exist for the provincial legislature is to find new ways of thinking and acting, as the country is disrupted by the lockdown and flooded with 4IR technology and innovation.

Tomorrow’s webinar is one of the virtual learning and interactive platforms that the institution will examine and explore. Other areas that will also be looked at are sharing international best practices, sharing experiences with National Parliament and identifying solutions to facilitate inclusive public participation.

In terms of the Constitution, provincial legislatures are required to facilitate public involvement, as well as conduct their business in an open manner, and hold their sittings, and those of their committees, in public.

Covid-19 restrictions have limited public interaction and this new normal has re-directed the provincial legislature to modify public engagement and find innovative mechanisms to ensure inclusivity in reaching those that are not able to access virtual platforms.

“Covid-19 has changed almost every aspect of our lives and the functioning of provincial legislatures is no exception. The Northern Cape Provincial Legislature has been extremely innovative in continuing with its work in this very different setting, making use of virtual platforms and engagements. While we use the opportunities that online engagement provides us, it is important to ensure inclusivity across the digital divides. That is why today’s webinar is so significant,” says DWF South Africa programme manager Mira Dutchke.

“By strengthening the relationship between communities and the provincial legislature through the regional liaison officers and other avenues, we can strengthen inclusive participation to ultimately enhance community-driven participation and accountability.”

Platforms used for engagement must include community service organisations spread across the Northern Cape so they can have their voices heard, despite the technological and financial restrictions faced in accessing digital platforms.

The webinar aims to share practical knowledge from National Parliament, globally used e-parliament platforms and best practice with the Northern Cape Provincial Legislature members.

During the event, community service organisations (CSO) operating in the region will share experiences of engaging virtually with the provincial legislature and ideas about how CSOs and provincial legislatures can work together to ensure inclusivity.

This event is one of the activities of the Civil Society Participation in Provincial Legislature project implemented by the Democracy Works Foundation, co-funded by the European Union (EU) and supported by the UK Westminster Foundation for Democracy (WFD).