Eighty seven lawmakers in one of the world’s smallest and most remote countries — the Indian Ocean island nation of the Maldives — are conducting virtual online parliamentary sessions with the help of Microsoft 365, including Microsoft Teams, as their country battles the COVID-19 outbreak.
The lawmakers are using Microsoft Teams video conferencing technology, instead of physically being present at the parliament house, known as the People’s Majlis, in the capital, Malé. They can take part in debates and cast votes in realtime while maintaining social distancing and self-isolation safely at home, all in the knowledge that their virtual interactions are secure. The sessions are also being broadcasted on television in real time, as well as on social media.
The Parliament’s Media and Communications Director Hassan Ziyau told local media: “Despite members not being physically present in the parliamentary chambers, the work of the parliament will continue as normal, with all parliamentary functions, such as votes, debates, and committee meetings taking place.”
The Speaker and former President, Mohamed Nasheed, is chairing the sessions from his usual seat in the People’s Majlis. But the ornate chamber is otherwise empty – except for a small technical and administrative team that watches over proceedings on a bank of computer screens.
“Parliaments worldwide cannot just stop representing their people during this crisis. The institutions of democracy must continue to function. The Maldivian Parliament will go on, meeting online, and all its work will continue unimpeded,” said the Speaker and former President, Mohamed Nasheed, who chairs sessions from the now empty People’s Majlis.
The legislature had first adopted this solution in January 2019 as a tool for collaboration, due to its security features and its wide capabilities. In light of the COVID-19 situation, lawmakers have moved to fully use Teams for virtual sessions starting on March 30. On Teams, they can interact in real-time while maintaining social distancing and self-isolation safely at home, all in the knowledge that their virtual interactions are secure.
Tech One Sanje, a local Microsoft partner, helped the People’s Majlis with the right tools to enable this solution. Its team members were also operating in a work-from-home mode and had to do the Teams set-up by remotely collaborating with parliamentary IT staff.
The Maldives is an archipelago in the Indian Ocean, southwest of India. It has 26 coral atolls and a population of around 538,000.