COVID-19 SUCCESS STORY: Meetings of Tallinn Council from the home office
Imagine a council meeting where each participant sits in their home office, and all activities take place virtually in the corresponding information system. Such a thing was science fiction in Tallinn a month ago, but as the state of emergency progressed, it was already a common reality.
At the beginning of April, the Tallinn City Council was faced with a serious problem of how to hold meetings in such a way that they would be safe for the council members, and at the same time, all laws and requirements for the functioning of democracy would be observed. As is well known, the work of the city council largely takes place in the meeting hall, where the personal presence of council members is required. It was also not possible to simply cancel or postpone the meetings, because of the life of the capital needed to be organized even under the state of emergency conditions.
The authorities of the city of Tallinn have been using the system Teele (based on effocracy) created by Net Group for about a year when processing legislation. This has made the lives of officials much easier, as the system is automated, and users no longer have to do as much manual work on documents as before. Legislation moves faster in the system, and the whole process is more transparent.
However, Teele did not have a voting application because it was deliberately left out of the development as a rather unnecessary module in the previous process. No one could foresee that there would ever be a situation where council members would not be able to physically gather in the council hall to discuss local life issues.
Initially, attempts were made to hold city council meetings with five council members present in the hall and the rest watching the decision-making process on the Internet. However, such a system cannot work long in terms of democracy, and it was necessary to find a way in which all the council members could take part in the decision-making process. It was clear that there was a need for a system that was secure and integrated with Teele. However, the system was needed immediately, i.e., there were only two weeks left for the task.
“We had a clear need to create a solution that would help the local government council to continue to play its main role in resolving issues necessary for the people and entrepreneurs of Tallinn. Despite the state of emergency, all members of the local government council must be guaranteed the opportunity to have a say in the decision-making process,” explained Priit Lello, the city’s legal director.
THE SYSTEM WAS ALREADY WORKING THE FIRST TIME
Time was pressing, and the developers’ working days working on the system stretched to small hours. There was simply no usual long testing period, and the developer proposed to implement the system already during its creation. Both users and developers learned, and this approach worked.
On St. George’s Day, the first e-meeting of Tallinn City Council took place with the help of Teele, and everything went perfectly. In the case of an IT system, however, this is a significant achievement, as new developments usually require longer testing and deployment times.
It was possible to complete the development in only two weeks because Teele was created from the very beginning with the idea that it could be further developed. In fact, there was already a place for adding a voting system. The development story of Teele is a perfect example of how there can be something positive, even in a bad situation. It is likely that an internationally progressive procedural solution with a teleworking voting system would not have been born any time soon if life itself had not forced it. The development of Teele took place extremely quickly and at the expense of night hours, but all is well that ends well: now, the system is even more convenient and user-friendly, and if necessary, city council meetings can be held remotely in the future as well.
“I believe that together with Net Group, we have created an information technology solution that does not compromise on the requirements set by law and which supports the functioning of democracy,” said Priit Lello.