Indian help sought for global 'e-parliament'

by Imran Qureshi, Indo-Asian News Service

Bangalore, July 17 (IANS) India's information technology (IT) industry has been asked to provide massive technological backing for an effort to set up a global "e-parliament".

Indian IT would facilitate the meeting of 25,000 elected representatives, discussing and debating on problems confronting the world. It could, perhaps, change the way the world thinks and decides on such issues as AIDS, population growth, children's rights and strengthening of the United Nations.

"The concept of an e-parliament is a fantastic one. Their ideas could well change the way the world is run today. It's a mammoth job that only a consortium of IT companies here can meet," the CEO of a big IT company, who did not want to be identified, told IANS here.

He was speaking after two elected members of Parliament, Bert Koenders of the Netherlands and India's Mani Shankar Iyer, explained the concept of an "e-parliament" to 30 CEOs of top Indian IT companies at the home office of Karnataka Chief Minister S.M. Krishna during a closed door meeting. Karnataka's capital Bangalore is also India's IT capital.

The idea of an e-parliament is, on the face of it, a simple one. It links up existing national lawmakers into a democratic global body in a bid to solve the world's problems.

Those backing the effort say the existing international forum -- the U.N. -- has in its present form proved ineffective during several crises, for instance when it failed to prevent close to a million Rwandans being killed.

"The U.N. is equally unable to act effectively to protect the global environment and lacks the adequate resources in its fight against poverty.Yet national executive branches tend to be opposed to a stronger United Nations because they see it as a competitor for influence. An e-parliament caucus on strengthening the U.N. could develop concrete proposals to make the U.N. more democratic and effective," a document given to the CEOs said.

The proposal for a step-by-step development of an e-parliament has come from EarthAction in collaboration with the Harvard Program on Negotiation, One World Now, the World Federation of United Nations Associations, the Humanitarian Group for Social Development and a group of national lawmakers from all parts of the world.

The e-parliament would have caucuses on, say, AIDS or children's rights. The formal structure could resemble a national parliament with committees monitoring work of major international institutions. It would also have an e-forum that would process proposals and get them approved by e-parliament and transmit them to national parliaments for consideration and action.

"Iyer and Koenders, along with Nicholas Dunlop (executive director, EarthAction, Britain) are coming for a one-on-one discussion. So we will be able to ask them questions on how they want the Web site to be developed. We did discuss the question of funding because it means a big project," said the chief of another IT major.

Karnataka state government officials say they were informed by Dunlop and Koenders that the concept had been appreciated by people like CNN's Ted Turner and Microsoft's Bill Gates, who were also prepared to provide funds for the setting up of the online facility.

Karnataka's capital, of course, is pitching for something big if the IT companies respond positively to the proposal. "After becoming India's IT capital and one of the technology hubs of Asia, it will become the virtual capital of the world if the Web site is hosted here," said a senior government official.

--Indo-Asian News Service