The lack of capacity or inadequate capacity is the missing link or gap that must be bridged in order to close the ever increasing dramatic development divide and to reverse the tragic trend of poverty in Africa. It is apparent that, as in many institutions in the continent, African Parliaments are also seriously afflicted by the lack of capacity, which hampers development in Africa. In Parliament, the lack of capacity is extremely detrimental especially in the areas of policy and programme formulation and monitoring, oversight, and programme implementation.
The specific capacity gaps that this Project intends to contribute to address are:
- Lack of strategic vision and managerial skills.
Parliaments must be capable of handling the complex processes of modernisation and change management that the adoption of ICTs requires. There is a conspicuous absence of an institutionalised information and knowledge-sharing culture. Management capacity is still too understaffed to enable the creation and maintenance of information and knowledge management structures (IT, library, documentation, research and training centres), and the promotion of a learning community.
- Lack of qualified professional staff.
The managerial, professional and technical training needs range from basic ICTs communication and knowledge skills to specialized competencies on various policy issues. The scarcity of professional staff and research personnel, with specialized knowledge on various policy issues, who are able to advise MPs on parliamentary rules and procedures, is a major weakness of African Parliaments.
- Lack of capacity building initiatives for MPs.
Inadequate opportunities for training badly affects MPs' levels of participation in Parliamentary debates, as well as their capacity to critically contribute to the policy-making activities together with their capacity to establish strategic linkages with knowledge-generating Institutions like universities and research institutes.
- Lack of value-added information services.
Parliaments' research units and libraries are usually ill equipped and stocked with outdated research and reading tools with hardly any subscriptions to print and electronic journals or newspaper collections. There are only a few examples of valued added services like the production of briefings on issues to be debated, digests on specific topics relevant for the Committees works, and so on. Parliaments do not have access to quality information, value-added services, knowledge providers, or pools of experts, who can provide MPs with information needed for data-driven policy formulation.
- Lack of information management applications and tools.
Parliaments lack comprehensive information systems capable of effectively supporting Parliamentary activities and the routine workflows which are involved in Parliamentary work, such as bill drafting, amendment tracking, parliamentary debates, and committee work. The adoption of software applications to improve management and accountability of Parliament, e.g. accounting, budgeting, management of human resources, etc. is also very much in its early stages.
- Poor inter-parliamentary cooperation.
Inter-parliamentary collaboration is now on the agenda of all National Parliaments as a reflection of the regional/continental dimension of many current issues and policies. The lack of information resources and the inaccessibility of National Parliaments’ legislation and documentation hamper the PAP’s capacity and its policy-making processes. The limited capacity of the PAP, as well as of its counterparts at national level, to network and disseminate information constitutes a major setback to the efficient fulfillment of PAP advisory functions.
- Lack of interoperability standards.
The creation of a parliamentary network needs the support of common technical standards that can facilitate the exchange and retrieval of Parliamentary information. The lack of a standardised way for Parliaments to classify and structure their data resources and business processes, stands in the way of increased exchange of information and this in turn limits the efficiency and effectiveness of parliamentary activities. The need for extensive exchange of information has also made apparent the usefulness of a multilingual classification tool like a thesaurus. This would allow much more focused and refined cross-lingual information search and access to information and documents in a way that improves transparency and access, while supporting greater understanding of the democratic process.
- Weak role of Parliaments in promoting the Information Society.
Most African countries have no legislation conducive toward the "Information Society". There is need to promote an enabling legal framework for the development of the Information Society in Africa. Parliaments as political institutions should play a leading role in the development of comprehensive policies and laws to create a favourable and enabling environment for the diffusion of ICTs and an equitable Information Society. The role of Parliaments in leading ICTs development cannot be underestimated. Members of Parliament frequently lament the lack of expertise to develop an enabling environment and legislative framework to favour the transition towards an Information Society. The existence of an ICTs regulatory framework is also important for the adoption of ICTs within the Parliaments. This is because Parliamentary modernisation cannot take place in a vacuum and the existence of an enabling culture and environment is an important factor that can greatly encourage and facilitate the efforts of Parliamentary administrations as they strive for better services and tools for Parliaments.
- Lack of coordination of Parliamentary Development Assistance.
The lack of coordination among donors providing technical assistance to Parliamentary administrations and MPs has sometime had a negative impact on the already stretched capacity of African Parliaments to effectively manage institutional development. Better coordination among Development partners and a concerted effort to build capacities and strengthen Parliamentary administrations and services should become the common mandate among Development partners in order to facilitate the management efforts of Parliaments. There is need to develop a common approach focused on local capacities building to strengthen Parliamentary administration and services, and create synergies and economies of scale that will optimise the use of available resources.