New Open Hlut­taw web­site aims to help vot­ers en­gage with par­lia­men­tar­i­ans

The Myanmar Times - - News - SHOON NAING news­room@mm­times.com

A GROUP of coders and po­lit­i­cal en­thu­si­asts have launched a new way for the public to interact with par­lia­ment.

“Hlut­taw rep­re­sents the peo­ple,” and, “You can com­mu­ni­cate di­rectly with par­lia­men­tar­i­ans who rep­re­sent your con­stituency or town­ship,” says the new Open Hlut­taw web­site, OpenH­lut­taw.com.

The web­site, ini­ti­ated by Myanma Fifth Es­tate and the Open Myan­mar Ini­tia­tive, went on­line Au­gust 6. It aims to fos­ter easy com­mu­ni­ca­tion be­tween MPs and the peo­ple, and to col­lect data and in­for­ma­tion about the par­lia­ment.

“It is not enough for the gov­ern­ment just to re­lease more in­for­ma­tion [through press re­leases],” said Ko Htin Aye, co-founder of Open Hlut­taw. “The in­for­ma­tion needs to be dis­trib­uted and made avail­able in dif­fer­ent ways – in the way that peo­ple re­ceive in­for­ma­tion and can use it with­out any [prac­ti­cal] lim­i­ta­tions.”

Cur­rently, the web­site has pro­files of MPs with their phone num­bers, email ad­dresses, Face­book pro­files, and de­tails about their in­volve­ment in com­mit­tees. The goal is to pro­gres­sively add more in­for­ma­tion about the day-to-day ac­tiv­ity in par­lia­ment, ac­cord­ing to a state­ment on the web­site.

Such in­for­ma­tion, or­gan­is­ers hope, will make par­lia­ment a more trans­par­ent process, a lofty goal when hlut­taw is dom­i­nated by a party that has been cagey about in­ter­act­ing with the press.

Of­fi­cial web­sites for the hlut­taw al­ready con­tain a com­pi­la­tion of MPs, how­ever, as does the Open Myan­mar plat­form, one of Open Hlut­taw’s main part­ners.

“But ours is more about en­gage­ment – con­tact info is front and cen­tre on our site,” said Ko Soe Lin Htoot, one of the de­vel­op­ers of the web­site. “That in­for­ma­tion is tucked away on the of­fi­cial sites.”

Peo­ple will also be able to con­tact MPs di­rectly via the web­site. Open Hlut­taw was built as a col­lab­o­ra­tion be­tween civil so­ci­ety or­gan­i­sa­tions from across the civic par­tic­i­pa­tion sec­tor.

The web­site has been run­ning for a cou­ple of days and it is avail­able in both Myan­mar and English. Tap­ping the rep­re­sen­ta­tive’s phone num­bers from a smart­phone opens the ap­pli­ca­tion to make a call. The same is true of email ad­dresses. And the MPs’ in­for­ma­tion is nearly all cor­rect. A few mem­bers have con­tacted Ko Soe Lin Htoot to cor­rect their con­tact de­tails.

One glar­ing prob­lem how­ever is the fact that Myan­mar lan­guage is not yet work­ing in the search bar.

“We are fix­ing that now, and peo­ple will be able to search in the Myan­mar lan­guage in about two weeks,” Ko Soe Lin Htoot said.

Only the in­for­ma­tion of up­per house and lower house MPs is avail­able for now – the re­gional hlut­taws will be added later on.

Fund­ing for the site came from a US$5000 Tech Camp Grant. Ko Soe Lin Htoot said he hopes to se­cure more fund­ing in com­ing weeks and months to ex­pand and stream­line the ser­vice.

– Ad­di­tional re­port­ing by RJ Vogt

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