Parlamento2030 – Tracking SDG activity in national parliaments
In response to the generalized lack of political accountability and availability of public information, this online tool provides an open and qualified access to the Spanish Parliament’s activity, related to the implementation of the Agenda 2030.It promotes a transparent and participative implementation of this agenda and allows CSOs, policy makers and the media to monitor political proposals.The Spanish Government has included Parlamento2030 as one of the tools of its 2030 Agenda National Plan.
The cross-cutting nature of the 2030 Agenda Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and the transversality of its targets represents a challenge for the implementation, evaluation and monitoring of the public policies put in place and hampers the efforts to track and gather information on SDG-related political activity proposed or approved so far. This situation adds to the pre-existing problematic availability of open access to relevant public information, which contributes to the disaffection and detachment of citizens from the basic functioning of decision-making processes related to the SDGs at local, national and international levels.
In order to help overcome these obstacles, CIECODE (a Spanish-based, civil society, development think-and-do tank) has developed Parlamento 2030, which is an innovative online tool created to track, compile and provide (in a free, open, clear, reliable and easily understandable manner) all the information about the activity of national parliaments related with the 2030 Agenda.
Parlamento 2030 gathers all the information published by national parliaments into a database and, through an automatic process of massive tagging, classifies it according to the different linkages to specific SDGs and targets. It then offers this information freely and openly through an online browser for users to search, find and download. This combination of advanced computer science and the traditional knowledge provided by policy makers, CSOs and academia makes Parlamento 2030 one of the most advanced tools at the international level to access parliamentary activity information and for public monitoring.
The ultimate objective of Parlamento 2030 is to promote ambitious, properly designed and adequately financed public policies oriented to the implementation of the Agenda 2030. It seeks to achieve this by promoting the following three essential goals:
1. Active, informed and demanding citizenry as well as empowered and influential CSOs: by making key public information accessible, promotes active citizenship and boosts the capacities of civil society to engage in political decision-making processes.
2. Independent, capable and critical media: by providing the media with an effective and reliable source of information, it fosters an informed and quality public debate on the political response to major social and environmental challenges.
3. A political class that is responsible and subject to public control: by providing open access to reliable information about the governmental activity, it facilitates public scrutiny and generates a system of public incentives which promotes a more responsible and accountable political class.
Although Parlamento 2030 was initially conceived and developed as a tool from and for civil society, it has been recently embraced by the Spanish Government as one of the tools included in its 2030 Agenda National Implementation Plan. It will be part of the online platform created to promote the participation, transparency, awareness and mobilization of all relevant stakeholders around the implementation of the Agenda.
This institutionalization of the tool will dramatically increase the number and type of actors who will use and benefit from the it and its information. Civil servants, parliamentarians and policy makers will soon join the current users of the tool (mainly civil society organizations, journalists and researchers). The Spanish executive branch will use the tool to evaluate and monitor the implementation of the SDGs in new pieces of legislation and other policy proposals. MPs will find in Parlamento 2030 a tool to ensure the coherence with the SDGs of the thousands of laws, legislative initiatives, public plans and budgets that will be passed in the years to come.
Although Parlamento 2030 is currently only implemented in Spain, it can be easily expanded to other countries. The tool’s code is open and public and it has been built using open-sourced software, which will facilitate its replicability and adaptation to other national, subnational or supranational parliaments. The same technology and methodology can also be adapted to provide a qualified and open access to others sources of public or private information (from public budgets to academic papers or online-newspapers).
What Makes Your Project Innovative?
Relevant data regarding the political activity of key public institutions is usually difficult to access. Many of them haven’t yet understood their duty to proactively make all the data they produce accessible in a reusable format. This has become a barrier for all stakeholders (public institutions included) to participate and engage in the policy-cycle, to be open and accountable and to monitor and evaluate the behavior of public institutions based on facts. Parlamento 2030 helps to save this gap transforming, with just one click, massive amounts of public data into accessible information. This achievement is possible due to an innovative combination of scrapping technology and a broad knowledge base.
Other innovation of Parlamento 2030 is its evolution from a civil society monitoring tool to a digital-government tool due to a partnership with the Spanish Government. Finally, by targeting the Parliament it also promotes the evolution from an open government to an open state approach.
Collaborations & Partnerships
The entire design process of Parlamento 2030 has been highly participative. From the beginning of the project, CSOs (such as the European Anti-Poverty Network), international organizations (such as UNICEF) and media institutions (such as PorCausa) were involved. Later, more than 30 CSOs, academic experts and public institutions were consulted and their contributions helped to shape the tool and adapt it to the specific needs of the different stakeholders and potential users.
Users, Stakeholders & Beneficiaries
Parlamento 2030 is primarily focused on serving citizens, enhancing their capacity to hold an informed public debate based on facts and related to sustainable development. Media outlets also benefit from it, as a source of reliable and accessible information. Other accountability projects base their data on the information provided by the tool. Finally, it facilitates public scrutiny, giving policy makers the public incentives to act responsibly and accordingly to the SDGs.
Results, Outcomes & Impacts
Until now, the main impact of the tool has been the number of citizens, CSO, policy makers and journalists which have had access to the information of the Spanish Parliament provided through Parlamento 2030. The available data figures (Google Analytics) show that during 2018 the website received the visit of almost 8.000 users (almost 50% of them from outside Spain, mainly Latin American countries . Also more than 500 subscribers receive personalized notifications twice a week, based on their personal interests regarding the Spanish political activity.
Due to the recent partnership with the Spanish Government, the social impact of the tool is expected to increase. Also, public officials will be educated on the use of Parlamento 2030 tool and on the potential uses of the information provided. Finally, Governments and CSO from outside Spain have shown their interest in the adaptation and implementation of the tool (specifically Andorra, Paraguay, Dominican Republic and Peru).
Challenges and Failures
The main challenge we have found with the design and implementation of Parlamento2030 is the uneasy access to the information published by the Spanish Congress. This information is not available in open, non-proprietary, machine-readable format, which hampers its potential use and reuse by all relevant stakeholders. We have overcome this challenge by developing a technology able to read and build a database with the information published by the Congress’ website.
It has also been difficult to reach the relevant stakeholders that could find the tool useful. Parlamento2030 is most valued and used when people and institutions get to know it, but it hasn’t had the reach it would have needed to be more useful and influential.
We hope the partnership with the Government will help to overcome these challenges. It will provide the dissemination needed and facilitate the communication with the technicians at the Congress, to collaborate in the improvement of the way this institution generates.
Conditions for Success
The main condition that would facilitate the success of Parlamento 2030 is the official commitment by the Spanish Congress to make its information available in a clear, complete, timely, open, machine-readable format, easy to find, understand, use and reuse. Until then, out tool has to overcome many obstacles to make this public information accessible to all users. The Spanish Transparency Law doesn’t apply to the Spanish Congress, so this commitment depends on the political will of the members of the Parliament and the technicians in charge of the publication of the information.
A high engagement of civil society organizations on transparency and governmental control activity would also make Parlamento 2030 have a bigger social impact and relevance.
A better availability of financial and human resources would also help to improve the impact and usage of the tool, by increasing the means to reach a bigger audience and improve the ways in which the information is provided to the users.
Parlamento 2030 was developed in open source and code in order to make it easily and quickly adapted and implemented in another country or sub-national public administration. The tool is only being implemented currently at the Spanish Parliament. Nonetheless, a future expansion of the tool outside Spain is more than feasible due to the fact that the Agenda 2030’s approach of the tool is very relevant at the international arena and that citizens are increasingly demanding tools that improve the access to public information and participation. In fact, Parlamento 2030 has received some requests from Andorra, Peru, Dominican Republic and Paraguay to adapt and replicate the tool in their national parliaments.
Parlamento 2030 is the successful completion of a long journey. It started in 2011 with a very low-tech monitoring tool (Avizor Project), which we implemented during 4 years, with no previous experience on this field and with no external funding. This project allowed us to know and understand what type of information did the different key stakeholders need to engage in the policy-cycle. It put us in contact with key public and private institutions working on transparency and accountability in Spain and the EU and showed us how CSO, media outlets and public administrations can use the information provided by this type of monitoring tools. Finally, it made us dream of what type of tool we would like to develop when we "grew up" and had human and financial resources available.
In 2014, with funds from the "Active Citizenship Programme for NGOs by the Financial Mechanism of the European Economic Area", we developed the civic-tech we currently use in Parlamento 2030. We worked 3 years on its development and improvement. Only with all these experiences, we were able to envisage Parlamento 2030 and see the potentiality of applying our previous experience and technology to the Agenda 2030 framework. In this sense, our first and main lesson is that relevant innovations hardly ever are quick results but rather the culmination of a long process of apprenticeship.
Another important lesson learned is the importance of counting with the correct partners on your side. In our case, having in our team the technical capacity to overcome the lack of transparency of the Spanish Government was critical for the success of our project. Also finding the support, inside the Government, of a person with the determination, leadership and resolution needed to build a partnership with Parlamento 2030 and transform a civic-tech tool designed and implemented by civil society into a digital government tool.
Finally, the one thing we would have liked to do better from the beginning of the project is to have a deeper understanding of the users of our tool. Empathising with your users is absolutely critical for the success of any tool. In our case, we now know that regular citizens, journalists and public officers cannot manage raw information. If you really want to help them overcome the gap between public and accessible information you have to offer them information which is already treated to provide a product that they can use for whichever purpose they want. This apparently small step can imply, for example, providing the users with automatic visualizations and statistics or improving the way in which they can download the information provided.