Policy wonks in Israel will find a lot to like in the Knesset’s new website, which was inaugurated by Knesset speaker Reuven Rivlin in a ceremony Tuesday. According to Knesset spokesperson Yotan Yakir, the site “places the Knesset among the leading suppliers of legislative information in any country, providing accessible and up-to-date real-time data.”
Unlike the old site, said Yakir, the new Knesset site offers users the opportunity to get real-time updates on just about anything legislative as soon as it happens. News flashes on the latest law debates and passages are displayed on the home page, and the site also features a live feed of the Knesset channel, the plenum-sponsored television station that broadcasts proceedings from the main chamber and committee discussions. The broadcasts, news flashes, and other data are stored in a new, updated database that allows for quick searches. And, for the first time, Knesset site users will have fast and easy access to the proceedings of Knesset committees, where much of the day-to-day legislative work is done.
The new site will also include quick news updates, tagging, and search capability in a number of languages, including English, Russian, and Arabic. Additional languages are planned, and the intent is to quickly update the foreign language pages to reflect the information on the Hebrew site. That is likely to take several weeks, though, the Knesset said in a press release. But eventually, foreign-language speakers should have the same search capabilities as Hebrew speakers, even if the actual meeting protocols, video, and legislative documents are in Hebrew.
Most intriguing, however, is the adoption by the site of the Open Data Protocol (ODP) for sharing information. While not strictly an application protocol, ODP allows fast open database searches and can feed data into web and mobile sites and applications. Thus, an organization interested in following the activities of a specific Knesset member, or up-to-date information on a specific policy or legislative effort, will be able to easily build an app that can aggregate information, providing alarms and alerts for users and triggering other actions — perhaps an automatic e-mail sent to Knesset members whom members are trying to influence, said Yotam Schwarz, a social media expert.
“With ODP there are few secrets Knesset members will be able to keep about their activities,” said Schwarz. “When you combine the easy access to data together with other protocols, such as linking to social networking sites, automatic Facebooking and Tweeting of information about Knesset members’ activities, and integration with other APIs that can utilize the information, you have a formula for very transparent government.”