Keeping legislative wheels turning during COVID-19

a legislative chamber

The Parliament of the Maldives holds virtual proceedings with the help of Microsoft Teams.

One of the world’s smallest countries – the Indian Ocean island nation of the Maldives – is conducting virtual online parliamentary sessions as it battles the COVID-19 outbreak.

Its 87 lawmakers are using Microsoft 365, which includes Microsoft Teams video conferencing technology, instead of physically being present at the parliament house, known as the People’s Majlis, in the capital, Malé.

They can take part in debates and cast votes in realtime while maintaining social distancing and self-isolation safely at home, all in the knowledge that their virtual interactions are secure.

The legislature adopted the solution in January 2019 as a tool for collaboration due to its security features and its wide capabilities. The COVID-19 situation prompted it to fully use Teams for virtual sessions starting on March 30.

The Parliament’s Media and Communications Director Hassan Ziyau told local media: “Despite members not being physically present in the parliamentary chambers, the work of the parliament will continue as normal, with all parliamentary functions, such as votes, debates, and committee meetings taking place.”

The Speaker and former President, Mohamed Nasheed, is chairing the sessions from his usual seat in the People’s Majlis. But the ornate chamber is otherwise empty – except for a small technical and administrative team that watches over proceedings on a bank of computer screens.

The sessions are being broadcast on television in real time and are also being carried on social media.

Nasheed told reporters, “parliaments worldwide cannot just stop representing their people during this crisis. The institutions of democracy must continue to function. The Maldivian Parliament will go on, meeting online, and all its work will continue unimpeded.”

Tech One Sanje, a local Microsoft partner, helped the People’s Majlis with the right tools to enable this solution. Its team members were also operating in a working-from-home mode and so had to set up things by remotely by collaborating with parliamentary IT staff.

The Maldives is an archipelago in the Indian Ocean, southwest of India. It has 26 coral atolls and a population of around 538,000.

TOP IMAGE: The People’s Majlis in session online via Microsoft Teams. Photo Credit: People’s Majlis. For more images click here.


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