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Sultanate all set to have first e-Parliament in Arab world
Source: http://www.timesofoman.com/News/Article-13080.aspx
Source Date: Saturday, April 13, 2013
Country: Oman (Sultanate of)
Created: Apr 14, 2013

Muscat: Oman has chosen to become the first Arab country to run an e-Parliament, aiming to become one of the top three parliaments in the world within the next three years.

Members of the Council of Oman, which includes the State and Shura Councils, will move to their new headquarters in Al Bustan, Muscat, in early July, after the completion of the four-year period of processing for the launch of the first e-Parliament in the Arab world.

The Council has examined the experiences of almost all other countries and has selected the latest technologies used by the best national parliaments across the world.
An international tender for the project was released, which attracted many companies. An Egyptian company was finally selected to do the job.

"Each member will soon be given an electronic screen for voting, through which the member can express opinions without any embarrassment since the screen is connected to the Internet, where members have access to external information," said Khalifa Al Farsi, Director of Information Technology and Communication for the Shura Council.

Work on the new headquarters started in July 2009, covering an area of 215,040 square metres.

"One of the best electronic systems in the world was installed as part of the Council's system to make this project the first integrated electronic parliament in the Arab world," stated Al Farsi.

He explained that the country is strongly motivated to make the Omani Parliament one of the top 10 parliaments in the world.

Khalid Salim Al Saidi, Secretary-General of the State Council, noted, "The new Omani Council aims to combine modernity and sophistication with originality, bringing together ancient Omani typists and a modern technological shape.

"The parliamentary practice in Oman will continue to operate under the same old mechanism, but it will focus more on the application of standards of transparency," Al Saidi stated. He added that the Council is training its members to use modern technology in accordance with the needs of the e-Parliament.

Al Saidi explained that the new system relies on seven applications. The e-Parliament application covers the work of the committees, voting, sessions, research and studies, and member affairs. The second application addresses transparency and deals with the public through three portals —one each for the Council of Oman, the Shura Council, and the State Council. These portals act as platforms for members, enabling them to communicate with the public and receive their comments. The third application provides an electronic library that initially serves the parliament exclusively; at a later stage, in keeping with its eight international standards, the application will communicate with libraries around the world.

The fourth application addresses employees' affairs, and the fifth application manages the affairs of the institutions, including their costs, missions, transport, maintenance, and budget. The last application manages staff complaints and comments on the maintenance of the equipment, the need for tools, and other needs. The electronic system of the Council of Oman provides a central control and a monitor and enables members to participate in sessions even while they are abroad through video conferencing. Installation of the technology began in June 2012 and is expected to finish this June. Once done, the Council of Oman will have a fully electronic system.

Organisers expect that the introduction of this system will raise the esteem of the Sultanate in international assessments, particularly those made by the United Nations, since it represents a quantum leap for the country.

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