Parliaments are among the most powerful institutions in both democratic and non-democratic countries. Information about members of parliaments, their activity, the legislative process and its outputs therefore count as the most important pieces of information produced by the public sector. It is crucial for transparent, just and effective governance that parliamentary information is published timely, completely, impartially and that it is free to obtain and re-use.
Moreover, technologies of the 21st century enable parliamentary information to be published online which greatly increases its accessibility and usefulness. It is an internationally recognized best practice that the public sector discloses information in form so called open data, meaning that there are no disproportionate legal or technical obstacles to obtaining and re-using it.
The aim of this project is to assess availability and openness of parliamentary data in several countries, to help increase its openness and to build specific applications that use parliamentary data to increase political accountability of members of parliaments and political engagement of citizens.
The project now covers the following countries and chambers of their national parliaments: Albania (Parliament), Bosnia and Hercegovina (House of Representatives, House of Peoples), Czech Republic (Chamber of Deputies, Senate), Hungary (National Assembly), Kosovo (Assembly), Macedonia (Assembly), Montenegro (Parliament), Poland (Sejm, Senate), Serbia (National Assembly), Slovakia (National Council). In the future, we strive to extend its scope to cover the following countries and chambers of their national parliaments: Armenia (National Assembly), Azerbaijan (National Assembly), Belarus (House of Representatives, Council of the Republic), Georgia (Parliament), Moldova (Parliament), Ukraine (Supreme Council).
Each of these parliamentary chambers has been reviewed using a comprehensive survey to determine accessibility and openness of 52 key types of parliamentary data on the official parliamentary website. The chambers are then compared using a rigorous and impartial methodology in order to identify specific strengths and weaknesses, as well as specific technical solutions how to mitigate deficiencies in one country that already exist in another country.
In order to increase openness of parliamentary data in the above mentioned countries, we have developed a common database. It primarily contains information about members of parliaments, results of votes taken during plenary sessions and transcripts of speeches made during plenary sessions. We have also developed web scrapers of official parliamentary websites that provide these types of information. These scrapers regularly download parliamentary data. It is then converted into a common data standard based on the internationally recognized Popolo standard of parliamentary data. The database can be accessed using an application programming interface (API). This website also showcases examples of specific applications developed based on this data.
This project is a collaborative effort of the following organizations: KohoVolit.eu (Czech Republic and Slovakia), CRTA (Serbia), European Policy Institute Skopje (Macedonia), Fundacja ePanstwo (Poland), K-Monitor (Hungary), KRIIK (Albania), Zasto ne (Bosnia and Hercegovina). It has been financially supported by the International Visegrad Fund. The project endorses international efforts to increase accessibility, openness and usefulness of parliamentary data, especially the Declaration on Parliamentary Openness, an international covenant defining standards and best practices of parliamentary transparency, and Poplus, a global federation of collaborative civil coders.