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2017 AALL Annual Meeting: Our Presentation on Enhancements in Government Legislative Websites

Tariq, Andrew and I, along with other Law Library colleagues, recently participated in the 110th American Association of Law Librarians (AALL) Annual Meeting and Conference.  If you haven not done so yet, check out Andrew’s post on the experiences of our colleagues at the conference. In addition to attending many of the wonderful programs offered, the three of us got the opportunity to be on a panel titled Tech Trends + Transparency: Enhancements in Government Legislative Websites.  Our presentation focused primarily on innovative developments around the world aimed at improving access to government legislative information and making the legislative process more transparent.

One of the poll questions we asked our audience during the presentation. (Photo by Lyonette Louis-Jacques.)

The presentation essentially followed the same template as a recent report that we published on our website, Features of Parliamentary Websites. In preparation for the conference, we enlisted our colleagues (the Law Library’s Global Legal Research Directorate staff) to evaluate enhancements made to parliamentary websites. This effort resulted in a report covering fifty jurisdictions around the world focused on aspects/tools that improve accessibility and, by extension, transparency.  These tools included: language (availability of legislative information in different languages), browse and search tools, availability of tracking and alert functions, mobile friendliness, availability of video and audio feeds of legislative debates, availability of legislative websites in mobile application forms, and other special features.

Part of our discussion also included issues that hinder/slow efforts to improve access to legislative information in various parts of the world. Key among them are infrastructure challenges such as access to the internet and electricity. An issue, which is universal in nature, is lack of availability of sufficient resources.  This challenge is at times compounded by the fact that efforts by various governmental and non-governmental institutions aimed at improving access to legislative information are not well coordinated.  Another resource-related problem is the fact that too many websites are not frequently updated, which diminishes their usefulness. Similarly, websites often do not include context material, information to help users better understand raw legislative data, including research papers, debate papers, and analyses of bills. Lastly, competing interests of the different audiences that consume legislative information present a challenge in prioritizing the process of making data available.

You can look at our PowerPoint presentation here. If you are interested in this topic and have questions for us, please ask.  Also, please let us know which area/subject you would like to see on a panel at the 2018 AALL Annual Meeting and we will write a proposal for a presentation next year.

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