An Appeal for the Establishment of an Official and Comprehensive Web Presence for the Liberian Legislature: An Open Letter to the Outgoing and Incoming Members of the Liberian Legislature.
The Liberian Legislature
Capitol Building, Capitol Hill
Dear Honorable Legislators:
Season’s greetings! To those departing, I extend my sincere gratitude for your dedicated service to the Liberian people and wish you success in your future endeavors. To the incoming legislators, congratulations, a warm welcome, and best wishes for a successful tenure as you embark on serving your people.
I am writing to bring to your attention the urgent need for the Liberian Legislature to establish a comprehensive and official web presence, particularly a dedicated website. In this 21st century, marked by technological advancements and an increasing demand for transparency and accessibility, such a digital platform is imperative to enhance the functioning of our esteemed legislative body.
Before I go further, let me inform you that a few years ago, the Liberian Legislature owned and maintained a website, www.legislature.gov.lr, which was developed with funding from the National Democratic Institute (NDI). I know this because my firm, in collaboration with NDI, played a crucial role in the website’s creation and maintenance. In fact, my firm conducted comprehensive training sessions for over 150 legislative personnel, focusing on the Linux operating system and Drupal content management system—the technologies that powered the platform. Included in those training sessions were the current deputy minister for press and public affairs, Mr. Jalawah Tonpoe, and the current deputy director general of the Liberia Broadcasting System, Mr. Isaac Redd. I am sure that they can attest to what I am saying. The aim of those training sessions was to ensure the website’s continued functionality. Regrettably, sustaining the website was not considered a priority by the past legislature. Consequently, it remained inactive for an extended period and eventually disappeared.
For several years now, the Liberian Legislature has operated without a dedicated website. Given that we are well into the 21st century, the absence of a functional website is a notable deficiency. While leveraging social media is essential for various reasons, it should not serve as the Legislature’s official web presence. Instead, there is a pressing need for a fully operational website that enables constituents to access and understand the workings of their legislative representatives.
Honorable Legislators, there are several compelling reasons why the establishment of a website for the Liberian Legislature is crucial in the 21st century. In the following paragraphs, I delineate ten of those reasons.
- The first reason is for transparency and accessibility. A website would serve as a centralized and easily accessible platform for citizens to obtain information about legislative proceedings, bills, resolutions, and voting records. Making these documents accessible online facilitates research and public understanding of the legislative agenda. A website also advances transparency by making the legislative process more visible to the public, thereby strengthening the bond of trust between the Legislature and the citizens.
- The second reason involves communication and public outreach. The Liberian Legislature’s website will provide an effective means of communication between the Legislature and the public. It can be used to disseminate information about upcoming sessions, proposed legislation, and public hearings. Public outreach efforts, including educational materials and resources, can be shared through the website to enhance civic engagement.
- The third reason is online participation. The Liberian Legislature’s website could include features that allow citizens to engage in the legislative process online. This might involve opportunities for public input, online forums, and the submission of feedback on proposed legislation.
- The fourth reason is for archiving and historical records. A website would serve as an invaluable repository for archiving legislative documents, ensuring that historical records of legislative activities are preserved and easily accessible for future reference.
- The fifth reason is for the provision of information and services to constituents. Legislators can use the website to provide information and services to their constituents. This may include contact details, office hours, and resources on issues affecting the constituency.
- The sixth reason is for education and outreach. The website can be used to educate the public about the legislative process, the roles of different branches of government, and the rights and responsibilities of citizens. Outreach programs and educational materials can be shared online.
- The seventh reason is for efficient workflow. Internally, the website can facilitate more efficient communication and coordination among legislators, committees, and support staff, thereby streamlining administrative processes.
- The eighth reason is accessibility for all. An official web presence ensures that information is accessible to a broader audience, including those who may face physical barriers to attending legislative sessions in person. This inclusivity is crucial for a thriving democratic society.
- The ninth reason is for global visibility. A well-promoted website can raise the global visibility of the Liberian Legislature. This, in turn, can attract international partnerships, collaborations, and support for national development initiatives.
- The tenth and final reason is that a robust, responsive, and comprehensive website for the Liberian Legislature is tangible evidence of our digital transformation journey. It serves as a clear indicator that we are making strides toward the realization of the long-envisioned and advocated “Digital Liberia.”
Honorable Legislators, I heard through the grapevine that there were previous efforts to revive the Legislature.gov.lr website, but challenges were encountered in securing the domain (legislature.gov.lr). If this is indeed the case, it suggests that those involved in the process may not have conducted thorough due diligence. While Liberia may not have complete control over its country code top-level domain (ccTLD) or the .LR domain (a matter that both the Ministry of Posts and Telecommunications and the Liberia Telecommunications Authority need to address promptly), I believe there are alternative approaches or solutions that could be explored to regain the domain name. If necessary, it could be replaced with a more suitable alternative for the Liberian Legislature.
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I understand the challenges and responsibilities that come with public service, and I appreciate your dedication to the betterment of Liberia. I am hopeful that this appeal resonates with you, and I look forward to witnessing the positive impact that an official web presence can have on our nation’s governance. I strongly believe that the long-term benefits far outweigh the initial investments and that the establishment of a website aligns with global best practices in legislative transparency and citizen engagement.
I kindly urge you, Honorable Legislators, to champion this initiative and work towards the prompt establishment of a comprehensive and official web presence for the Liberian Legislature. I am confident that this step will contribute significantly to the advancement of our democracy and the empowerment of our citizens.
Thank you for your attention to this matter. And, if I can be of any assistance, please let me know.
Dr. Darren Wilkins
Advocate for a Digital Liberia
Author of the book, “A Digital Liberia: How Electrons, Information, and Market Forces Will Determine Liberia’s Future”