New Open Hluttaw website aims to help voters engage with parliamentarians
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