Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Make e-champions out of your legislators

The third lesson in cyberlegislation that I shared was to make e-champions out of your legislators. This requires a lot of trust and hardword to make it work.

When lobbying for the E-Commerce Law, I remember that a lot of us in the industry were so focused on talking to an IT-savvy legislator. Later on, we realized that he is not chairman of the committee that has the power to calendar and prioritize the tackling of our proposed bill. As a result, a change of strategy was made. This includes:
  • Approach all legislators, through their staff and committee persons (if they are chairman), and discuss the significance of their filed legislation.
  • Offer to do briefings for them and their staff to get at the knowledge level they desired. This includes going to their office at their free time just to talk to them.
  • Get them invited in various IT and business events to talk about our desired legislation. Make them realize that this it is indeed important, that there's clamor for it, and their role importance as well. It is like saying, "We need a champion and we hope that you could take that role."
  • Do exhibits/forums under their committee in Congress or Senate just to get the support of fellow legislators.
  • Give them monthly or quarterly quick briefing on what is happening to nearby countries, comparable to our home country, just to show how we compare or being put to a disadvantage, for not having the law in place. This includes just showing up and sharing a news tidbit.
  • A legislator only takes a bill and lobbying efforts seriously if they can feel that you are indeed reliable when the time comes. This includes participating in public and technical working group hearings, do back-staff and research work, helping in writing up reports, and more importantly, provide answer inputs during floor deliberations and speaking events (as necessary).

These are just some of what we've done but there could be more. In the end, it is all about appealing to the legislators about a bill or law's importance to a greater benefit. Not to forget, their personal advantage and accomplishment as well if done.

Monday, May 7, 2007

Talk to your legislators

A big mistake among cyberlegislation advocates is that they keep complaining on the lack of law and even blame government and legislative branch for failure to enact one. If you believe in a proposed law's importance, then you should be willing to take action and do the necessary work to get it passed.

I spent a big part of 1998 to 2000 to lobby for the passage of the Y2K Law and an E-Commerce Law legislation in the Philippines. Prior to doing that part, I was attending an Internet Commerce Expo forum in 1997 where former Department of Science and Technology (DOST) Secretary William Padolina was the primary resource person. A participant from the audience asked, during the question and answer portion, what is the DOST doing to ensure the passage of an e-commerce legislation so that entrepreneurs and businesses can accept payment online.

I wont forget Padolina's answer at that time where he simply said, "You can't expect the DOST Secretary to do everything for you. If it is important for you, then you should go out there and talk to your legislators, lobbying its importance. Else, you'll get what you deserve." That I took seriously then.

Instead of asking all legislators, effort was first spent on:
  • The committee where this proposed legislation will fall under. Time was consumed talking to the secretariat, legal team, and legislative sponsors (especially if a resolution or draft bill was already filed before). Committee heads where this bill will fall under and push for its for calendar hearing prioritization.
  • Senate President, House Speaker, Majority and Minority floor leaders are also approached to support the law's and have it included on target legislations to be passed for the year.
  • Heads of government agencies who will benefit or tasked as implementer are asked for their support too.
From there, quality contacts are progressively built. Time must be spent on continuously updating legislative and support base stakeholders through seminars, research/technology briefings, latest developments, and meetings. In one of my briefings, I remember presenting to key legislators on how many countries have passed similar legislation, programs, and investments made just to send warning signals on how left behind we are, putting a great number of people at a disadvantage.

Of course, it worked!