Parly flaunts 21st Century electronic bling

zimbabwe_parliamentHARARE - The Zimbabwe Parliament flaunted its electronic bling at the 2011 national budget presentation, with the Finance minister reading the spending plans from an iPhone, with a screen almost the size of a 14 inch TV.

Projectors, laptops, electronic graphs were used as electronic tools in delivering next year’s spending plans, beamed live on State TV. Legislators followed the budget on a new, spanky communication system, with screens flickering graphs and fiscal statistics.

It marks the end of the royal centuries old British pageantry that characterised the House under Zanu (PF) as Zimbabwe’s Parliament goes digital. The electronic stuff adorning Parliament was donated by the US government. The bling is part of a US$500,000 grant provided by USAID, Pact and SAPST, that bankrolled the purchase of audio and other communication equipment.

Before the GNU, the Zimbabwe Parliament imitated the majesty of colonial power Britain’s ancient royal and parliamentary traditions, but all that has been abandoned, with electronic bling in full splendour last Thursday.

Zimbabwes Speaker of Parliament, Lovemore Moyo said: “Its a good thing.” He said the bling includes an audio and archiving system, a conference delegate system, an archiving system and a digital system for Members of Parliament to vote using smart cards assigned to each MP.

Biti made a 3-hour long speech on a 255 electronic pages budget to a joint sitting of both Houses, outlining the government’s spending agenda for the next year. He announced that the ICT minister Nelson Chamisa was giving all legislators PCs, and will soon send them on a course on Internet use. It is believed there are some legislators facing challenges with the digital revolution sweeping Parliament. The technology revolution in government institutions is being spearheaded by Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai’s MDC party, which controls the ICT ministry through minister Chamisa, an IT savvy marketer and politician.

Because of the new equipment, parliamentary and committee debates are now being digitally recorded onto a computer, providing an archive for public discussion. Furthermore, quality control procedures of the generated digital documents, based on international standards is being used. Digital watermarking techniques are being employed in order to protect that copyrighted material such as the Hansard among the digital documents that have been made available for viewing and reproduction.

USAID has had a long standing relationship with the Parliament of Zimbabwe,” said Karen Freeman, the USAID director in Zimbabwe. The donation was “symbolic of our wishes to continue to work with Parliament to expand its capacity.

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