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NORTHERN IRELAND: ICT MANAGEMENT


In session: The Committee for Employment and Learning in Parliament buildings


Electronic Committee Packs One of the most important responsibilities undertaken by Assembly Members is having to scrutinize legislation and hold Ministers and their departments to account, something that is done both in Plenary and in Committee meetings. Until recently, the paper- based packs prepared for Members used to run into hundreds of pages and take staff as many days to compile and send out. It clearly was a system ripe for change, and the Assembly Commission agreed to a pilot programme introducing an Electronic Committee Pack system. Following the successful pilot, which assessed and defined the needs of Members, the Assembly implemented an electronic system


to better support Members in their scrutiny role and to enhance overall Committee effectiveness. Secondary – but not unimportant – concerns were the desire to reduce the reliance on paper. Business efficiency drives to streamline and standardize services, and with Members becoming more familiar with using tablet devices, they could request their papers in electronic form.


The new Electronic Committee Pack system manages the creation of a composite PDF file, bookmarked and page numbered, containing all the committee papers in a single document. It reads and feels like an e-book, rather than a series of individual papers and is capable of being marked up or annotated without changing pagination or


format. This composite pdf is created by Committee teams using bespoke software and copies are automatically distributed to Members cloud-based Office 365 SharePoint storage. After a period of detailed planning, a programme of complementary projects was initiated to create, deliver and manage committee meeting papers electronically – including the in-house development of software, the provision of SharePoint 365 cloud storage for Members, the provision of Windows 8 tablet computers to all Members and the installation of a new Wi-Fi network in Parliament Buildings.


The benefits


The level of uptake of the Electronic Committee Pack system has been very encouraging with the majority


of Committees now adopting electronic-only meeting packs. Many committees have now chosen to be completely paper-free, and other committees have greatly reduced their requirement for paper packs. Cost savings have been achieved, both in terms of the time required to produce Committee packs and the saving on print and paper. Members are now able to search previous Committee packs and may access papers from any location with an internet connection. They can also share, mark and annotate their packs in advance of Committee meetings.


Challenges and lessons learned Introducing any new system brings its own challenges and the introduction of the Electronic Committee Pack


The Parliamentarian | 2014: Issue Three | 189


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