Parliamentary monitoring websites are great for citizens. But they’re not the easiest technology to build.
Good parliamentary monitoring sites allow citizens to keep an eye on the people in power. They make it easy to find out who represents you, what’s being debated, and how members have voted.
But hard work goes into presenting that kind of information simply and clearly. Such sites require complex databases of politicians, which can be easily updated when elections take place.
They need a way to collect and publish out the written record of debates.
And to be really effective, they need to match users to their constituencies, so people can see quickly and easily who represents them.
Pombola is software which does all of these things for you, removing the need for extensive software development and leaving you to get on with the day-to-day tasks of running your website.
Effectively a collection of components working seamlessly as a whole, Pombola provides several key pieces of functionality.
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People and places
At the core is a structured database of politicians that links elected representatives to the places they represent, the parties of which they are a member, and the roles they perform.
All you need to do is provide the data — or check EveryPolitician if you don’t have it available — and Pombola displays a page for each politician, as well as cutting the data in various ways to populate other areas of your site.
The debates you publish, for example, will have the politicians’ names and photographs beside their contributions. You can display all of the members of a particular house of parliament, all of the elected representatives of particular areas, or even all of the politicians who attended a specific college.
The words they speak
A second database stores parliamentary transcripts, with speeches ascribed to the individual speakers. Your users can search the entire database, so they can read up on recent debates or ones going back into the past. This database also allows you to do nifty things, like display on a politician’s page how often a they have spoken in parliament and what they have said.
Matching users to constituencies
Boundary information (stored in our boundary mapping service, MapIt) allows users to input their location, and discover the elected politicians who represent them. This feature is a very powerful way to ensure that content is relevant, even for people who do not know much about Parliament or its workings.
Spreading the message
Finally, Pombola allows for integration with major social media channels, with tools that allow users to comment on and socially share individual pages, Twitter streams on the home page and a blog for your news items and infographics.
Pombola has been used to build and run sites in Kenya, Ghana, South Africa, Nigeria and Zimbabwe. Between them, they are providing an insight into their countries’ parliaments to hundreds of thousands of citizens every month.
People’s Assembly is opening government for South Africa, publishing debates, informing the populace and keeping politicians accountable.
Mzalendo makes the Kenyan Parliament accessible to citizens, with MP profiles, contact details and score cards for politicians.
Pombola for you
Pombola is free for anyone to use. But if you are interested in setting up a site using Pombola in your country, the first thing you should do is get in touch.
You may even be eligible for free support from our developers: find out more here.
The code is freely available, but we’d like to give you a little guidance before you get started. We want to make sure you have all the latest information, updates and support as you set up your Pombola site.