Adapting new communication technologies at the National Assembly.

Author:Chagnon, Jacques
 
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This article starts by looking at how the National Assembly has harnessed communications technologies to engage the public and get them involved in democratic life. It then focusses on the various technological tools available to members and the President to support them in their work. The article concludes with a few thoughts about how communications technologies have a tangible impact on parliamentary business.

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In 1964, Canadian philosopher and sociologist Marshall McLuhan first revealed his famous theory that would go on to revolutionize the world of communications: "The medium is the message." At a time when the idea of a global communications network as sophisticated as the Internet was pure science fiction, this simple, yet prophetic theory aptly described just how vital to our daily lives new technologies would gradually become as a means of communication.

Mindful of the impact on its image and the need to inform the public about parliamentary business, the National Assembly of Quebec has always strived to use technology to reach out to Quebeckers.

Services to the Public

October 3, 2013, will mark the 35th year of live broadcasts of parliamentary proceedings. The very first live broadcast of a sitting of the Assembly was in 1978. Then-president Clement Richard spoke of the significance of this innovation bringing the National Assembly into the electronic age, and he expressed his wish to see it encourage all Quebeckers to take part in the democratic process. Not only did the arrival of cameras in the Chamber change the behaviour (and dress) of certain members, but it also forever changed the parliamentary landscape.

Since then, parliamentary proceedings have unfolded trader the watchful eye of the camera, which over the past 35 years has witnessed the political careers of certain members. In March 2013, the Assembly, as a broadcaster, reached another critical milestone in its technological development by completing the switch to HDTV, a format it began exploring as early as 2006. Now, TV viewers in Quebec can now following the work of Assembly in HD.

For several years now, Internet users from around the world visiting the National Assembly's website have been able to view live not only the proceedings of the Assembly and its committees, but also news conferences, special ceremonies and educational activities taking place at the Assembly.

On May 30, 2013, smartphone and tablet users were given access to the National Assembly's brand new mobile website. The main sections of the Assembly's website have been adapted to provide easier access to mobile web users. The mobile site provides access to a wide range of information, including backgrounders on the 125 members, the Assembly channel, daily events, a simple search function to look up a bill, and useful information about the National Assembly such as details about guided tours, restaurants, gift shop and library. This simple-to-use mobile site, accessible anywhere, provides the public with just one more way to participate in democratic life. Here is yet another window showing parliamentary life in real time. No matter where they are, mobile users can stay up to date on the goings on in the National Assembly and take part in its proceedings, watch live as members speak in the Chamber and in committee, track the progress of legislation and contact their elected member. This is in response to the public's growing needs and the constant challenge of bringing the Assembly closer to the people.

In April 2009, the National Assembly adopted parliamentary reform that laid the foundation for this initiative by encouraging public participation in...

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