Parliamentary Digital Service CIO Tracey Jessup discussed ‘digitising democracy’ and technology transformation initiatives at the Palace of Westminster at NS Media Group’s CIO Town Hall Live forum. By NS Tech

Parliamentary Digital Service CIO Tracey Jessup said that recent initiatives to enable MPs and peers in Parliament to scrutinise government, and debate and vote remotely, demonstrated the power of digital and created significant demand at the institution, writes Edward Qualtrough for NS Tech.

Jessup, the CIO and managing director at the PDS since September 2017, was discussing the organisation’s recent initiatives at the Houses of Parliament during NS Tech and CBR‘s CIO Town Hall Live forum.

Speaking with NS Media Group technology editor Edward Qualtrough, Jessup also shared details of the broader transformation initiatives in Westminster, how digital fits into the upcoming restoration and renewal project, recruiting diverse high-performing teams, and how her team’s work was helping make Parliament’s operations more accessible.

[View CIO Town Hall Live sessions on-demand]

“In March, when the whole Covid situation started, it became very apparent that Parliament was going to have to very quickly respond, to change its operating model in order to be able to continue the process of democracy effectively – to continue to be able to scrutinise the government,” Jessup said.

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Jessup and her team at PDS enabled peers in the House of Lords to hold sessions remotely over Microsoft Teams, provided the platforms for Select Committees to operate virtually, and when asked by the Speaker, developed a “Hybrid Parliament”, which required a number of changes to parliamentary rules around debate, and close collaboration with broadcast partners.

“And we worked on a system of remote voting to enable people to vote on issues wherever they were, whether they were in Westminster or across the country,” she said.

Jessup said that her team’s engagement work had been critical to the success of the projects, from a user-research perspective and for helping embed the new hybrid style of operating.

“It really demonstrates the power of what digital can do, and how it can help people and solve their problems,” she said. “And we have had amazing feedback from members in both houses; from those who love technology to those who perhaps don’t or have struggled in the past, but who really appreciated the lengths we have gone to get them up and running.

“We have had a big team of people who have been proactively ringing and coaching and giving help to people.

“Where we are today, digital is everywhere. Parliament has no doubt that digital is integral to what it is doing – and we have created a large amount of demand for that.”

Digitising democracy

Jessup added that something she was most proud of was developing the online, freely available edition of Erskine May, ‘the Bible of parliamentary procedure’, which controls the rules around how Parliament operates.

Previously only available in print for hundreds of pounds, PDS worked with the publishers to produce an online version, which she described as “a huge milestone” – and also something incredibly popular, particularly during Brexit, for people wanting to understand the idiosyncrasies of parliamentary procedure.

You can watch Parliamentary Digital Service CIO Tracey Jessup’s full session from the CIO Town Hall Live on demand, where she discusses the next phase of CIOs reaping value from cloud computing, the role of digital in the Houses of Parliament Restoration and Renewal Programme, the disruptive emerging technologies she expects to have significant enterprise impact, and the next phase of Parliament’s digital transformation.

[Watch Parliamentary Digital Service CIO Tracey Jessup’s CIO Town Hall Live session]