Bungeni-Parliamentary and Legislative Information System

Quick Look

Bungeni aims at making Parliaments more open and accessible to citizens. Bungeni is the Kiswahili word for "inside Parliament".

Beginning Date: 
January 1, 2007
Project Scale: 
Types of Tools: 


The Africa i-Parliament Action Plan is an Africa-wide project of the United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs implemented to empower African Parliaments to better fulfill their democratic functions by supporting their efforts to become open, participatory, knowledge-based and learning organisations. In fulfilling this mandate the project focuses on the following initiatives:

1. Bungeni - Parliamentary and Legislative Information System.
Note: Bungeni is not yet operational.
Bungeni - Parliamentary and Legislative Information System is the Project supported the development and promotes its deployment and further development. Bungeni is a Parliamentary and Legislative Information System that aims at making Parliaments more open and accessible to citizens, virtually allowing them " inside Parliament" or "Bungeni" the Kiswahili word for "inside Parliament". It is based on open standards, and open source applications that aim to provide solutions for drafting, managing, consolidating and publishing legislative and other parliamentary documents.

2. Africa Parliamentary Knowledge Newtwork (APKN)
APKN is based on the founding principles of the Pan African Parliament (PAP) and the African Union which underlines the need for better coordination and collaboration among African Parliaments to meet the multiple challenges posed by economic and social integration and the need to harmonize legislation in member countries.

3. Akoma Ntoso XML Schema develops and promotes the adoption of a specific data format for parliamentary, legislative and judiciary documents. Akoma Ntoso, "linked hearts" in the language of the Akan people of West Africa, is a set of common XML standards that allows users to exchange and reuse parliamentary, legislative and judiciary documents more efficiently. Akoma Ntoso is a set of simple, technology-neutral XML machine-readable descriptions of official documents such as legislation, debate records, minutes, etc. that permits the addition of descriptive structure (markup) to the content of parliamentary and legislative documents. Akoma Ntoso XML schema make “accessible” structure and semantic components of digital documents supporting the creation of high value information services to deliver the power of ICTs to support efficiency and accountability in the parliamentary, legislative and judiciary contexts.


What problem is your project aiming to overcome?: 

There are a number of issues this project tries to addess:

1. Support parliaments in the adoption of XML and open standards. XML is the other name of “re-usability” but also potentially economy of scales and common services. Open standards and a rich semantic XML, like Akoma Ntoso will make parliaments more accessible and more accountable. XML will allow the reuse of documents in a very easy and powerful way and so will alllow civil society organisations to further add “social value” to the information and improve their watchdog role.
2· Promote an open source model to address the issues of quality and sustainability of parliamentary systems in African. We have developed a workflow-based system that seamlessly integrates the creation of documents up to their publication online, all based on open source applications. A system that, building on a common system can potentially deliver better quality to all parliaments in a sustainable fashion.
3· Most challenges encountered by parliaments are very similar in nature. The opportunities that ICTs have brought about in terms of collaboration and sharing of experience are unprecendented. The project aims at exploiting these new opportunites for sharing and collaborating by also building common services and solutions meant to both enanche the learning process as well as parliamentary efficiency and effectiveness.

What are the roots of that problem?: 

Lack of resources both technical and economical resources are for sure one of the root causes of the problems. Lack of technical expertise leads to a lack of vision or to a vision that is short-sighted and focused on dealing with “emergencies” and prevents Parliaments from the luxury to foresee or implement measures that will really free parliaments to better be in charge of their own technonogical development while providing better services to their MPs and citizens.

Many parliaments have a weak IT department, and they do not have capacity to design and manage the deployment of a complex parliamentary system. Most parliaments are using old systems that are the results of layers of development that are hard to maintain in isolation.

Despite the huge opportunties of sharing and developing common services, pariaments have not been able to appreciate the opportunities of an open source development model both in terms of quality and sustainability for the development of their information systems.

Is there a right to information law in the country where this project is based?: 
What other organizations are you working with?: 

We work with parliaments both national and regional, but also with institutions that are working in similar areas within the parliamentary development domain. We also work with universities from both Africa and also Europe and America. We work very closely with the Global Centre for ICTs in Parliaments, a joint initiative of UN/DESA, and the Inter Parliamentary Union (IPU) since our activities are very complementary.

Have you thought about developing your own tools?: 

Bungeni is a collaborative software development initiative based on open standards, AKOMA NTOSO (www.akomantoso.org) and open source applications that provide a solution for drafting, managing, consolidating and publishing legislative and other parliamentary documents. Akoma Ntoso, "linked hearts" in the language of the Akan people of West Africa and symbol of understanding and agreement, is a set of common XML standards that allow to exchange and reuse parliamentary, legislative and judiciary documents more efficiently.

Have there been any attempts to replicate your work elsewhere?: 

Currently it is NOT operational in any parliaments. We will begin pilot installation in June 2010 but we have many, many requests to test Bungeni, also from the Parliament of South Africa. The issue is more when we will be ready and finding parliaments that will be willing to use it.

What are your plans for 2010 and 2011?: 

We intend to continue the support the APKN, the development and implementation of its strategic plan since it is a unique opportunity that African Parliaments come together and agree on their priorities, and really become in charge of their capacity-building activities and common services in a way that see all parliaments as equal, regardless of their size.

We also intend to continue the deployment of Bungeni in all African parliaments to support even more functionalities and hopefully see also its adoption in parlimentary-like situations, such as regional/provincial assemblies or municipalities while at the same time seeing the development of local communities of open source developers.

We intend to continue to disseminate widely the Akoma Ntoso standards for adoption by most African Parliaments and also try to examine its reach to the other public institutions that deal with legislative processes, from the Government to the Judiciary.

We also intend to work toward a better sustainabilibity of parliamentary development assistance by ensuring that all development partners working in this area are engaged in a process that create more awareness of each other initiatives and creaty synergies to deal with the huge gap of skills, systems and resources that African parliaments have to deal in order to become more transparent and accountable.

Further Questions

Is there anything we haven't asked that you would like us to?: 

The issue is that Bungeni is of great interest because it seems to promote transparency of the parliamentary systems in the countries concerned. This makes it quite an ideal case to include in your research project. And if you then combine it with Akoma Ntoso, the XML standard it would really make the life of civil society organisation that want monitor parliamentary activities much easier.


Reviewer comment

This project is laudable as most parliaments especially in developing countries do not have the information and communications technology capacity to deploy useful emerging information management resources to meeting the challenges of the new information age. However it not clear how the system is going to attract public interest to make the concept of "inside parliament a reality. It does not clearly show how the MPs themselves are going to be engaged in the process which is expected to roll down to their electorate or constituency. As a good step the Parliamentary administration set-up seemed to be more engaged and it is hoped it would catch up with the entire stakeholders.

This will at the same time achieve the purpose of promoting the use of open source applications if well deployed over Africa. One step in that direction is worth it.

The project can engage experts in online infrastructure to enhance its social network and other interactive facilities and also making the interface user-friendly to match the voluminous documentations, otherwise the resources may be available but cannot be used to the depth it requires.

I think the attempt to redefine the various dimensions of a modern parliament is laudable and needs to be promoted and enhanced.

It should have a blend of technical experts in ICT and governance fields and we can see more progress.

Reviewer comment

It is very heartening to see more and more parliamentary accountability platforms coming online.
I applaud Bungeni for the use of innovative systems in this field though, the task lies in getting parliamentary IT to adopt the systems which as we all know is a headache to say the least. i would recommend a platform where, the various projects collaborate and share ideas on how to do this as this will make their work easier, Mzalendo, a previously reviewed project would be a starting point.

Comment viewing options

Select your preferred way to display the comments and click "Save settings" to activate your changes.

Post new comment

The content of this field is kept private and will not be shown publicly.
  • Web page addresses and e-mail addresses turn into links automatically.
  • Allowed HTML tags: <a> <em> <strong> <cite> <code> <ul> <ol> <li> <dl> <dt> <dd> <img> <h1> <h2> <h3> <h4> <h5> <pre>
  • Lines and paragraphs break automatically.

More information about formatting options