Parliaments on Their Way to an Information Society
The utilisation of electronic databases, and the awareness of different choices, not only improves the work of the parliament, and thereby its efficiency, but also enables it to offer better services and higher quality to citizens. The article describes the peculiarities of the parliament, an information-based organisation, in determining the criteria for its databases. Most attention is paid to external electronic databases, and the decision-making principles based on the content of these databases in a parliamentary information-based environment.
The specifics of the parliament are reflected in the decision-making process – the selection criteria for a database should be in concert with general development principles and the information strategy of the parliament and its support mechanism.1 Making a choice has become more complicated due to the abundance of information and mediators. Previously, many databases that were only for the use of specialists have now become easily accessible and understandable. One of the main reasons is the development of information and communication technology and convenient user interfaces. In addition to the reliability of a database, significant criteria are also topicality, accuracy, and easy use, as well as the importance of observing security regulations and such. The last criterion indicated is usually the price of the database, this should be compared to the possible rate of return.
Although a legislative institution does not specialise in any one field, it is possible to point out four principle topics: law, economics, social security and politics. Such specific databases are accessible mostly at information and research centres. The practice of everyday use of databases in parliamentary work is rooting slowly but consistently. In most countries it is the parliamentary libraries that are in charge of the external databases, and the expenses of these electronic databases are constantly increasing. It does not matter how high-end the accessible databases are, if the relevant persons are not correspondingly informed or do not know how to use them. The goal is not only to choose databases that correspond to the interests of the users, but they should be appropriate also to the politicians’ and their advisers’ work methods. The author hopes that in the future routine intellectual work will be performed more and more by means of information technology. The understanding of different alternatives, and the knowledge to use those choices, in order to increase work efficiency will be crucial.2
1See also A.Hardie (2000) Information Strategy in a Digital Parliament – report from the seminar Communication Between Parliament and Civil Society – http://www.riigikogu.ee/1101_hardie.html.
2See also Elkordy, A. (2000) Evaluating Web-based Resources: A Practical Perspective (http://www.thelearningsite.net/cyberlibrarian/elibraries/eval.html); Information Automation Limited and CIQM (1999) Database Quality Criteria. (http://www.i-a-l.co.uk/ciqm/QualCrit.htm).