Open Politics?

The 8th Parliamentary Day of Audio-Visual Communication Media of the Parliament of Catalonia took place on Monday. The theme was “Society, Media and Politics: Rights and Obligations” and according to the Parliament’s own webpage, was “open to any citizen who wanted to participate virtually”. After registering and receiving a password, the participant could watch the events online and send comments which would appear in the Parliament itself. 

PodCamp Barcelona had been invited to participate and we duly registered. However it was impossible to see the event in Safari. So, a little annoyed, we changed to FireFox which was crashed by attempting to watch the proceedings. We tried again and again and each time FF crashed. 

We tweeted this on Twitter, where we could follow events, and the organisers tweeted back that they were investigating the situation. Meanwhile we received other tweets from people who were watching via FF. So we asked them if they were using Mac or PC, and they were all using PC’s. Meanwhile we fired up an old laptop which has Windows operating inside Ubuntu and lo and behold, in Internet Explorer we could see the event. The only problem is that the laptop has no sound, so we could watch but not listen. 

We received another tweet from the organisers to say that they had checked and although the event page didn’t work in Safari, it was working in FireFox. We then tried FF in Ubuntu and it didn’t work there either. 

We are explaining the situation in detail because we think that it illustrates very well that the concept of “Open” is still not understood. It is not enough to put an event on “the Internet”. Open means using technology that will function on any operating system and any browser. If the Parliament calls upon citizens to participate they must make sure that they are using Open media – it is bad enough that commercial services such as RENFE have ticketing systems that only function in Internet Explorer, but it is completely unacceptable that the Government uses applications that only function on certain platforms/browsers. While we welcome any initiative to make public authorities more Open, events such as this only demonstrate the gap between the hype and the reality. 

Ironically the only way we were able to follow The 8th Parliamentary Day of Audio-Visual Communication Media of the Parliament of Catalonia was via Twitter, an Open Source, cross-platform, cross-browser, web application.

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