2 September 2016

Digital Communications – our plans

Dr. Gareth McGrath
Director of Parliamentary Services
One of the goals of the Speaker and the Assembly Commission is to make the Northern Ireland Assembly a more accessible and transparent organisation. As such, we are always looking at ways in which we can improve how we publish our content. Technology plays a big part in this:
  • Back in 2011 we rebuilt our website;
  • 4 years ago we launched our Open Data Project;
  • Last year we launched NIAssembly.TV.
However, technology alone does not improve access to information. We have listened to your feedback and we have changed our internal processes to ensure that the public can find the information they determine relevant:
  • We now publish Members' expenses, on a quarterly basis, in greater detail;
  • We provide daily updates to Assembly Questions and Answers;
  • You can now find out the result of Votes on Division in real time.
Last year, after listening to user feedback we realised that most people do not know a 'point of order' from a 'petition of concern' and so, we set about providing information that would educate users on what our Assembly terms mean. We hope you found that series informative.

Following the recent restructuring of Government Departments, the Assembly Committees now have different areas of responsibility. Starting next week, we will publish content explaining the roles of the new Committees and what areas fall within their remits. In addition, we will take the opportunity to explain, in greater detail, the workings of Plenary and how your MLAs are raising the profile of issues that matter to you.

The number one priority for Assembly staff is to support and promote the work of the Assembly and its Committees. A big part of that, but perhaps a less well known one, is our daily engagement with the wider general public. We answer telephone queries, respond to emails, inform tour groups, deliver education programmes and resources for young people and teachers, and much more. In a range of future articles, we will provide a unique insight into the inner workings of our organisation, and also how you can get involved.

As noted above, there are already a number of initiatives underway but I'd like to draw your attention to 'Research Matters' a publication from our colleagues in the Research and Information Service. In addition to the excellent research papers that they produce, they have also committed to publishing shorter, more timely articles on topical matters.

What else can you expect?
We will soon be introducing a series of 'How to' videos and a range of interactive content. Within the next few months, we will also be launching a new website, dedicated to showcasing events in Parliament Buildings and detailing what the building has to offer.  For example, did you know you can hold your wedding reception at Parliament Buildings, or host a wide range of corporate events within the building?

How can you stay up to date?
All of the new information will be posted on our social media feeds.  Keep up to date with our work and send us your feedback by following us on twitter, facebook, instagram and sign up to our weekly newsletter.

Dr. Gareth McGrath
Director of Parliamentary Services