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Key lessons learnt from the evaluation of the Botswana Speaks Parliamentary Initiative

Success factors:

The pilot phase of the project was initiated as scheduled in April 2013. Since then some interesting outcomes have emerged from the pilot phase in line with the overall objectives of the project:
•    Citizens have shared their views with their MPs;
•    Parliament has made bills and motions available to the public early in the decision-making process (April 2013);
•    Some MPs responded to their constituents’ via the platform;
•    Constituency meetings took place regularly to present the project;
•    Capacity building enhanced throughout the pilot phase;
•    Initiative was very well received at international events.



Finally, the promotion of the Botswana Speaks platform took place regularly at local and national levels in Botswana, as well as internationally through the partners’ participation to international events such as conferences and workshops. The replication of the project, which relies on the experience and results of the Botswana Speaks Parliamentary Initiative, has been achieved through an evaluation carried out independently by an external evaluator and an exploitation kit has been created. It includes a software installation kit, a best practice guide to piloting and a communication and marketing strategy. The exploitation kit is available and allows an easy exploitation of knowledge and experience.
The exceptionally high number of constituency meetings organized to inform citizens about the platform can be regarded as an improvement of constituency service. Furthermore, efforts have been made to increase transparency by making Bills and motions available on the platform.



Challenges:

•    Without adequate ICT infrastructure, i.e. widespread possibilities for citizens to access computers or smartphones with Internet connectivity at acceptable speed, attempts to introduce an Internet based platform for communication with citizens is unlikely to have any broad success;
•    Presence of IT skills among the users is also a critical success factor (unless one is content with using only mobile phones). Given a low level of such skills (as in the case of Botswana), IT support staff members, who could train and assist citizens to use the platform would need to be provided in shared facilities. In any case a Parliament IT support team has to be set up (and budgeted for) to assist in the introductory phase of the roll-out;
•    The level of response from MPs to cases submitted to them is another success factor. To achieve an acceptable response rate, Members of Parliament must be given adequate training and incentives to use the platform.


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