Legislative portal will let citizens offer feedback on bill

“Smart Cloud” seeks to streamline legislative process by allowing organizations relevant to specific legislation to receive “live” updates on website.

By REBECCA ANNA STOIL
May 18, 2011 04:24
2 minute read.
The Knesset adjourning for its spring break.

Knesset session 311. (photo credit: Courtesy)

 
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If it seemed in the past near-impossible to follow the course of legislation for any given bill as it winds its way through ministerial committees, Knesset hearings and ministry follow-ups, a new government initiative aims to take much of the mystery out of the process.

Key officials from the Knesset, the Justice Ministry and the Prime Minister’s Office presented on Tuesday a new “virtual cloud” that seeks to make it easier for citizens to keep track of bills that are important to them.

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The joint project will lead to the establishment of what they described as a “national legislative portal which will constitute real democratic progress and improve accessibility for the public.”

The project’s Hebrew name, “Smart Cloud,” employs an acronym of “the legislative, government, Knesset” cloud.

Smart Cloud’s developers emphasized that the project would maintain the principle of separation of powers to ensure that the Knesset and the government continue to balance each other.

They emphasized that it will increase transparency, and said they hoped it would streamline the legislative process itself, by allowing all of the organizations relevant to the specific legislation to receive “live” updates.

On a technical level, the initiative will work through a special website.

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Government and Knesset representatives will update the relevant legislative information, working through the independent websites of each respective body.

The portal is expected to officially launch and be ready for public use in approximately eight months. At that point, sponsoring government agencies plan to encourage the public to visit the site and pass their judgement on the legislation they find there.

The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development has requested that certain legislation, especially bills focusing on economic issues, also be translated and made available in English.

One of the project’s sponsors, Knesset director-general Dan Landau, said the initiative would go so far as to change the legislative effort within the Knesset itself.

“The legislators will no longer have to wait for long back-and-forth internal correspondence and committee meetings in order to be updated on the status of bills that they themselves initiated,” Landau said.

In the past year, the Knesset has also begun broadcasting almost all committee meetings live on the Internet via the Knesset’s website, and has reformed the tours of the Knesset building to allow groups greater access to witness the legislative process.

Justice Ministry director-general Guy Rotkopf also welcomed the initiative on Tuesday, describing it as a revolution.

“Only after some time passes will we be able to correctly assess the degree of its impact on strengthening democracy,” he said.

According to cabinet secretary Tzvi Hauser, the Smart Cloud will also have a significant impact on Israel’s reputation overseas.

“The project will benefit Israel’s image as an advanced democracy, and as a groundbreaker in transparency and public involvement in the work of the Knesset, the government and the Justice Ministry,” Hauser said.

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