The emergency situation has affected people from almost all walks of life. In addition to the negative aspects, the crisis has highlighted new needs that were not normally worth thinking about, but now needed quick solutions. One such example was the development of digital solutions necessary for the electronic organization of Tallinn City Council meetings.
According to Mr Tiit Terik, the Chairman of the Tallinn City
Council, it was clear at the very beginning of the emergency
that the work of the Council as the highest political body in
the capital cannot be stopped, because many issues that needed
to be decided quickly fall within the exclusive competence of
the council. "Be it a temporary exemption from the location of
a kindergarten, a free right to travel for non-residents during
an emergency, or other measures that the city government
proposed to alleviate the crisis," Terik explained.
It was not possible to start holding electronic sessions
immediately due to the lack of the necessary technological
solutions. They just had not were not necessary before. It was
also unclear at the outset whether holding sessions
electronically was legal. Therefore, at the end of March, it
was agreed with the political groups represented in the council
that, in order to prevent the spread of the virus, only one
representative from each political group would initially attend
the meetings. "My clear interest was for the council to be able
to take decisions in plenary again as soon as possible, doing
so legally and involving as many members as possible," said the
chairman of the council. "Estonian local governments have
interpreted the electronic organization of council sessions
differently and there are still different views on this issue.
The Ministry of Finance has said that electronic sessions are
legal, while former Chancellor of Justice, said that councils
must always meet physically."
The first e-session of the Tallinn Council was held in the
middle of April, but by then the voting system had not yet been
completed. The items on the agenda which required a vote were
put to the second reading. The electronic voting system, which
was introduced on 30 April, now allows for the full
organization of council meetings electronically, if necessary.
"This is undoubtedly a historic event for the council," said
Martin Männil, the City's Director of Information Technology.
"In less than a month, information system Teele was given the
opportunity to vote securely logged in at the council session
in the Tallinn Legislative Information System, which is being
implemented. Council members were to take part in the
decision-making process through the IS. There is an agenda for
the meeting, together with the draft and the accompanying
supporting material, which the Council members can consult. "
Council members who have logged in with an ID card or mobile ID
can register their wish to give their opinion about the items
on the agenda in a speech, vote securely on all decisions and
verify the correctness of the vote. In addition to Teele, video
conferencing software Microsoft Teams is used to conduct
e-sessions of the council, through which the chairman of the
council chairs the session and in which presentations and
questions are made. However, the online audio-video system of
the council will be used for the webcast of the sitting, with
the help of which a camera image of the council hall will be
shown on the webcast of the public sitting, alternating with
speeches in Teams and votes in Teele.
Will Tallinn City Council sessions be held electronically even
after the end of the emergency? According to Terik, in the
interests of political debate, disputes should take place in
the room. "Therefore, Tallinn Council will meet again
physically as soon as possible," said Terik. "However, the
opportunity to hold e-sessions is a worthy helper if a
situation arises in the future that prevents people from
gathering in the hall."