The Senate, on Friday March 9th approved a motion seeking to have the use of communication technology by members permitted in the Upper House.
The Motion which was moved by Senator Norman Grant speaks specifically, to allowing the use of computers to access compact discs and other sources of information, on the basis that major developments in technology, generally, and moves by Government agencies to release annual reports on compact discs, necessitate the use of computers to access the data for informed debate of the reports.
In his comments, Senator Grant noted that the use of technology will bring to the Upper House practices in line with what now obtains in the House of Representatives.
“It will also bring the Senate in line with international trends as a number of parliaments across the globe over the last five years have amended their Standing Orders and the practice now in some of those Parliaments is that they have adopted the use of Information Communication Technology (ICT) during their sittings,” Senator Grant said.
He added that the use of ICT will aid in the information process, while noting that it was commendable that a number of government agencies are now presenting their annual reports on compact discs.
In his comments, Leader of Opposition Business in the Senate Senator Arthur Williams noted that the use of technology in the Senate goes beyond the ability to access annual reports.
“Technology can be a useful source of reference material for members in making presentation in the Upper House. We live in an age now where the material is often posted on the websites of the public bodies and there is really no need in this modern age to be preparing these fancy, costly annual reports in printed form,” Senator Williams said.
He further added that it was necessary for the Senate to have the ability to access reports electronically.
Meanwhile, Senator Floyd Morris, stated that he wholeheartedly supports the resolution.
“The issue of technology and its use is extremely important especially in light of the fact that we are living in the information age. I must point out that I have been using technology to assist in my presentation in the Parliament,” Senator Morris said.
He further noted that he was heartened that a number of the reports presented to parliament were in CD form.
“That is important for me because previously what I use to have to do as a member is to take these large volumes of reports, find volunteers or assistants that I might have at my disposal to read them to me or I would have to use the technology at home to scan them and convert them in an accessible format where the computer will be able to read it to me,” Senator Morris stated.
He however noted that although he is able to access the Parliamentary website, he was unable to access the documents posted as they are in a scanned format.
“Now when you have a scanned document on the website or in general if you should send it to me I can’t read it because the JAWS are picking it up as a picture. But once it’s in a text format then I’ll be able to read it independently,” the Senator noted.
Job Access With Speech (JAWS) is a Microsoft computer screen reader programme which allows the visually impaired to read the screen either with a text-to-speech output or by a refreshable Braille display.
By Latonya Linton, JIS Reporter