• LegisTech - A Legislative-driven Innovation Ecosystem

  • The Government innovation ecosystem, also known as GovTech, is widening how society thinks on a digital government and how it deals with the paradox of an analog government, representing a digital society. There are public and private entrepreneurs promoting the reshape of the relationship between citizens and government on the delivery of efficient public services and bureaucratic processes, as well as in the quality of legislative production and oversight of public policies. The Legislative Power has an essential role in promoting new and innovative interactions on its relationship with the pluralism of citizens it represents. The field of Innovation in the Legislative differs from its counterpart of the GovTech ecosystem, and it is necessary to understand the consequences of such development in order to bring a new nomenclature to reframe what is understood as the LegisTech ecosystem.


    The Executive Branch is responsible for implementing public policies that meet the most basic needs of a society, but it needs clear, efficient processes that do not burden citizens unnecessarily. GovTechies can rely on intensive use of technology, or cultural changes in bureaucratic processes merging both social skills and the use of technology to propose a resilient solution. However, another key component GovTechies desperately need are room to test its solutions before scaling-up to an entire City, Region or Country. The legislation and civil servants culture must tolerate propositive failures in smaller scale.


    The nomenclature GovTech is widely used in countries where the relationship between the entrepreneurial ecosystem and the executive branch has reached a high level of regulatory maturity in procuring startups and their solutions to the challenges of public administration. The name does not yet contemplate a fundamental relationship for democracy and the functioning of democratic institutions, the Legislative Power.


    It must be remembered that the contemporary State has a constitution based on the partition into three independent powers, where the rule discussion is the responsibility of the legislative, the rule application is the responsibility of the executive branch, and the rule adjudication is the responsibility of the judiciary.


    The Legislative Branch has its own consensus-building processes and timing where it creates content for deliberation. The management challenges of the legislative process also tend to differ from LegisTech to the GovTech, although similarities between the executive and the legislative branch challenges are found mostly on administrative offices and support activities.


    The new LegisTech ecosystem is made up of initiatives, private and public entrepreneurs that provide solutions for the Legislative Power, represented by the Legislative Houses - represented by the City Councils, State Assemblies, and National Congress - and their MPs. The LegisTech entrepreneurs can assist in improving the quality of the legislative output. This ecosystem fosters tools capable to assist in processes so that legislative proposals - such as Amendment of the Constitution, Bills, Legislative Decree - have a higher technical quality through public scrutiny and less redundancy to existing legislation using data science and machine learning in this monitoring; as well as tools that allow MPs and committees to supervise the offices of the executive branch in the execution of public policies and its expenditure of resources; and solutions so that Caucus and Parties better manage their MPs in speeches, propositions and votes, for a more coherent articulation of political actors and party cohesion.


    The impact of LegisTech is not restricted to actors within the Legislature, as there is the potential for improving efficiency in relations with other Powers of the Republic, as well as other spheres, such as the relationship between Municipalities and MPs at the State and Federal level.


    In Brazil one important case that spearheaded the discussion of innovation in the Legislative is the LabHacker of the Lower House of Brazilian Congress, an office composed of Public Servants with the objective of articulating a space for discussion and implementation of innovation processes in the legislative, connecting MPs, public servants, civil society and entrepreneurs. LabHacker not only is the first laboratory to foster the discussion of innovation on the legislative, but it was the first to discuss public innovation as a whole in Brazil. They act as a Hub on how to think a Legislative more connected with new tools and new ways of thinking about the daily challenges of the representation. The goal is to contribute to a culture of transparency and participation through public data management. Another important initiative to be noted on the Brazilian Parliament is NaInova, an office responsible to promote the internal debate on how to promote innovation within the Senate. Their headquarters has an open space office that differs from usual public offices, welcoming public servants for different activities that include the design of workshops and the better integration between public servants and other civic stakeholders on the public innovation ecosystem.


    Bússola is another case of a LegisTech that reinforces the need to encourage entrepreneurs willing to help the Legislative Power in their challenges. The organisation was born with the objective of shortening the distance between citizens and the representative institutions, through a more conscious vote. Strengthening the connection between the voter and the institutions through election is an essential phase, but it is also necessary to understand the daily challenges of the Legislative Houses, whose experience in partnership with private and public entrepreneurs can support a new vision for a Legislative. Bússola supports the Legislative Houses on reaching out to citizens, through a platform that promotes transparency and greater use of legislative data - the Bússola Parlamento. During the development of the platform, Bússola's team noticed that other than the implementation of technology public servants also encouraged the construction of an agenda of educational training focused on innovation - both hard and soft skills in consonance with the knowledge accumulated about the legislative process and local politics.


    LegisTech's ecosystem faces challenges similar to others on Public Innovation when we consider the business model and sustainability on procuring solutions from private entrepreneurs by public authorities, since the rules that guide the procurement of innovation still generate doubts for both private entrepreneurs and public servants. Similarly to other public sector authorities, there is little room for entrepreneurs at a crucial time in the innovation process, the ability to test and to fail on smaller projects without the need for large-scale implementation.


    The LegisTech has a peculiarity that might boost public innovation in its core in Brazil: the pulverised relationship with the Legislative, through MPs and Partisan Leaderships, instead of only dealing with the Legislative House as an institution. Entrepreneurs and initiatives can be procured to implement specific services without the need to go through the rigorous screening that is in force in the public administration. There is the advantage of being able to test methodologies and solutions within the public sphere, without the need for implementation in large scale. It offers entrepreneurs and the public servants the opportunity to build a space to fail and to share their failed experience with others, an essential characteristic for a disruptive environment.


    The Legislative Branch around the world is responsible for the plural representation, through the decentralisation of the channels of dialogue with the groups of society. The decentralisation and the need to build consensus are the essence of the Legislative Houses, which makes them a fundamental space in the universe of Public Innovation. Public and Private Entrepreneurs have in the Legislative, through MPs and political parties, the opportunity to revolutionise what we see as public innovation. It should be something natural for the Legislative Houses, to have a space where they can propose bleeding edge projects with high risk of failure with a minimum cost and a high potential to hub civil society, public and private entrepreneurs solutions. The Legislative naturally holds the leading role in the debate and implementation of public innovation, through the LegisTech ecosystem.

  • Luís Kimaid