Electronic official publications and systematisations of legislative acts
VSIA "Latvijas Vēstnesis"

A. Problem Analysis

 1. What was the problem before the implementation of the initiative?
Article 90 of the Constitution of the Republic of Latvia states: “Everyone has the right to know about his or her rights.” This provision, inter alia, inherits a State’s duty to a citizen to ensure: 1) accessible official publications (proclaimed and accordingly officialy pulished legislative acts and other information); and 2) that the legislation adopted is easy to use in practical application. Before undertaking the initiative, official publication was ensured by issuing official gazette “Latvijas Vēstnesis”. Because of the paper format, providing access to authentic official publications to a large number citizens was quite problematic due to limited number of copies printed. In addition, information which was binding to a citizen was available for a fee. Number of subscribers of official gazette was declining every year (2005 - 3 300 subscribers, 2006 - 3235, 2007 - 2240, 2008 - 1900, 2009 - 1100, 2010.gadā – 510). With this tendency it took disproportional costs for the official publisher to produce a printed media. Legislative system nowadays has a character of frequent changes of legislative acts (amendments). For a citizen or even legal professional application of legislative acts can become quite difficult and often even impossible if there is no access to consolidated version of the particular act (basic text with subsequent its amendments). Before the initiative consolidated legislation was available only in private databases - for a fee. It is important to note that legislative system of the State is not solely composed only by national legislation. Also, international treaties concluded by the State is a part of it. Before the initiative registration of international treaties was performed by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs within a self-made and maintained database which did not provide linkage to the respective texts of the particular acts. In addition, the database was recognised to be technically and functionally out-dated and could not meet today’s requirements.

B. Strategic Approach

 2. What was the solution?
The initiative was proposed to address the demand from the society for a free and up-to-date access to law. It consists of uniform electronic official publications information system and modern legislation database. E-publications – transition from official gazette in paper format to official publications ellectronically on the Internet website www.vestnesis.lv: - information is freely accessible to unlimited number of readers; - no cost or fees, on-line day and night (24/7); - authentic official publication (secure and reliable); - access also to electronic versions of the official gazette in paper (for information only). Modern legislation database www.likumi.lv: • The most recent legislation is published on the website on the day of its proclamation in the official gazette “Latvijas Vēstnesis”. • The legislation is supplemented with the most recent amendments and is available in its in force wording. In addition, access to the “historic” and “future” wordings is provided on the website. • The validity status is indicated for the laws and regulations. • Related documents, incl., links to translations in English are indicated for the laws and regulations. • The laws and regulations are provided with a list of contents. • The website offers wide legislation search options (advanced search, fast search, lists of legislation by type (chronological and alphabetical), topic and number of views. • Authorised users are offered additional options (make their lists of legislation, add notes to the legislation, receive notifications about changes of particular laws and regulations (a new amendment published, status changed). • For more information about www.likumi.lv features please watch this video presentation: http://youtu.be/N5XIcM_sm3I Now also systematized international treaties and their texts are available in one database –www.likumi.lv. The technical solution created enables that texts of the international treaties which are available within the database maintained by the official publisher are systematized by the experts of the Ministry of Foreign affairs by adding the necessary descriptive meta-data and controlling the correct legal validity status of the treaties. This is a guarantee that the information provided is of highest accuracy. Currently within the database fully systematized information is available for the following international treaties binding to the Republic of Latvia: - all treaties which have been concluded since July 1, 2014; - multilateral treaties which have been adopted till January 1, 1970 
(work in this sector is still on-going); - all bilateral treaties which Latvia has signed since May 4, 1990. The overall strategy of the initiative – to reach as many citizens as possible by effectively ensuring access to quality and trustworthy information in the field of law in a way that meets the needs and demans of the modern information society following the latest trends of IT and web developments.

 3. How did the initiative solve the problem and improve people’s lives?
The initiative shall be considered innovative based on the following aspects: - Transformation from the official gazette on paper to official publications in electronic format. During the transition period it was important to introduce these changes in a such way that presentation of official publications does not create difficulties or obstacles for the users of official gazette. This is the reason why the presentation of electronic official publications was developed to closely resemble production principles of paper edition. - Solutions to guarantee authenticity and content integrity from the moment of publication, archiving. Taking into account the characteristics of the web environment, electronic official publication compared to paper edition could be envisaged in a light of certain information security risks. It was extremely important to create such preconditions where users of the electronic official publications could safely relay on public trustworthy of the given information, its authenticity and integrity from the moment of publication (that the creator or author is the official publisher and that the information has not been altered afterwards in any way). To enable this, table of contents and every single publication of the particular issue of the official edition is created in a Portable Document Format (PDF) and digitally signed with an advanced electronic signature as well as time-stamped for additional layer of security. Electronic signature is used only for information security purposes, it is not added to signatures of the particular document and do not replace them. To exclude a potential loss of the electronic publications in the event of failure of the central distribution channel, each issue of official electronic edition is regularly transferred for storage in the National library as well as the State archives. - Legislation made usable – legislation is made available the same way as any other information is presented on the modern web. Top features of the latest Likumi.lv version are as follows: - modern, user-friendly site based on simple and clear structure of the information that is providing also advanced functionality addressing needs and requirements of professional users; - mobile version with the access to the full content of the Likumi.lv and appropriate functionality; - integration of social networks (e.g. possibility to share links to the whole legal act or a specific provision); - personalized content: 1) e-mail notifications about changes in acts defined by the user; 2) ability to create, edit and structure personal lists of legislative acts; 3) ability to create and edit personal notes to the whole legal act or specific provision.

C. Execution and Implementation

 4. In which ways is the initiative creative and innovative?
To implement the initiative, strategic action was required on the following three levels – political, social and practical. Electronic official publications Political level: + adoption of two policy planning documents within the Cabinet of Ministers (conception of December 18, 2007 “Of facilitation of access to law and recognition of authenticity of electronic publications”, replaced by “Official electronic publications accessibility facilitation conception” of April 13, 2010); + development and adoption of the necessary legislative framework (“Law on official publications and legal information” of May 31, 2012.). Parallel to the political process – public discussion and exchange of views on transition to electronic publications, involving the main stake-holders – private sector, academics, judiciary, legal practitioners and experts. Practical steps at the official publisher: - Analysis of production processes of official gazette. Retrieval of information to be officially published from the suppliers as well as planning and control of the current issue of the gazette was dependant on paper based workflow mechanism. - Development, extensive testing and implementation of internal information system for management of publication process (legislation). With introduction of this information system, all workflows related to production of official publications are made fully electronic. Also, interconnection with IT systems of the chancelleries of the Parliament and the State President is created for electronic exchange of information to be published. Development, extensive testing and implementation of internal information system for management of publication of official notices (public records of registers, judicial announcements of notaries, courts etc.). It completely replaces previous IT system, which was recognised as technically out-dated not being able to meet the new requirements determined by the introduction of electronic publications. Also, interconnection with IT systems of the Enterprise register, the Council of notaries, the Council of judicial officers – as regular information providers for official publication. - Development of the new website for electronic Official edition of the Republic of Latvia www.vestnesis.lv (concept, design, web development, implementation of information security solutions – integration of e-signature functionality). - To provide high level of information security and to ensure continuous, undisrupted production and access to official publication, considerable investment was made to the infrastructure of (all resources are duplicated to two geographically separated data canters). Also, the necessary plan for action in event of crisis situation has been developed. - VSIA “Latvijas Vēstnesis” is certified according to the standards of ISO 9001:2008 (quality management) and ISO 270001:2005 (information security). Also, during September 18-19, 2012, official publication process and systematization process has been audited by international auditors “Bureau Veritas” – receiving acknowledgment that all in-house production processes are performed in line with the requirements set by the law. - All subscribers of official gazette were timely personally informed about the cancellation of production of paper gazette. Also, official publisher undertook the necessary activities to inform the society about transition to electronic official publications. - From July 1, 2012 till January 1, 2013 there was a transition period, when in parallel to the official gazette in paper also official publication in electronic format was produced and delivered. This approach has been chosen to evaluate practical functioning of electronic official publication before implementing it as the only channel of official publications content delivery. Although it was a convenient feature for the users, however for official publisher it brought a complex work in double amount to ensure that information published on paper and electronically is identical as well as published within the set publication date. Likumi.lv Traditionally, legislative websites have been developed as conservative data bases of legal acts. Since legislation is a complex system our challenge is to make legislative acts more accessible and easier to use for everyone. In order to achieve advancements in usability of legislative acts, the release of the Portal in 2013 has been developed in line with the concepts and features of Web 2.0. Implementation steps taken: - previously, there have been two major releases of the Portal – in 2001 and 2008; - work on the new release started in 2012; 
 - research and creative phase lasted for three months and implied brainstorming about functional changes, new 
features and design; 
 - design phase lasted for 5 months and implied creation of wireframes and visual identity for which external design 
team was involved; 
 - development phase – programming and internal testing (8 months); 
 - public testing (from April 16, 2013); 
 - public release of the new Likumi.lv and its mobile version (m.likumi.lv) – May 24, 2013; - integration of international treaties database – conceptual idea in August, 2012, work on technical development started on September, 2013 (IT tool for experts of Ministry of Foreign affairs for information management on treaties as well as public interface of the database in www.likumi.lv portal), public opening – in the date set by the law “On international treaties of the Republic of Latvia” – July 1, 2014.

 5. Who implemented the initiative and what is the size of the population affected by this initiative?
The initiative was implemented in co-operation with the following institutions: • Ministry of justice – as a policy maker in the field of justice; • All state institutions, in particular the State Chancellery, Chancellery of the Parliament, Chancellery of the State President – as key institutions involved in exchange of information to be officially published; • NGOs, in particular Employers' Confederation of Latvia – LDDK, Latvian Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Latvian Commerce Association – as lobby representing interests of owners of private legislation databases.
 6. How was the strategy implemented and what resources were mobilized?
The initiative is implemented by the official publisher VSIA “Latvijas Vēstnesis” (State Ltd.), performing its duties and tasks within the model of self-financing (no State budget financing). With this, only financial resources available within the own budget of the organisations were used. Also, most activities of the initiative were carried out by the staff of the organisation. Only specific tasks were outsourced (technical development of the new IT system for official notices, web-design and graphics for www.vestnesis.lv and www.likumi.lv, e-signature services. Total implementation costs of the project from year 2009 - 2013: 1,2 million EUR, including outsourced services – 0,4 million EUR.

 7. Who were the stakeholders involved in the design of the initiative and in its implementation?
Successful outputs of the initiative: - User satisfaction survey results (for details, see pt. 10) - According to the official publications website statistics, it is accessible to considerably more citizens compared to number of paper copies produced of the gazette (number of annual subscribers of the official gazette in 2010.g. – 510, number of official publication users of www.vestnesis.lv in 2014 – 37 000 (Google Analytics data form January till September); - Legislation data base www.likumi.lv is constant leader being ranked No.1 in the field of Latvian public sector websites. It is accessed by 14.72% or every 7th internet user in Latvia (150 000 – 160 000 users) (data provided by the internet research agency Gemius). - Official electronic publication has been carried out without any accessibility or timely production process disruptions since it was implemented. - In 2013 www.likumi.lv has been awarded with international quality innovation award (http://www.laatukeskus.fi/palvelut-vuoden-laatuinnovaatio-kilpailu-2013/international-quality-award-year-prizes-have-been-awarded)

 8. What were the most successful outputs and why was the initiative effective?
Transition to electronic publications was managed as an internal project within the organisation. Project management task-force was established to plan, coordinate, manage and implement the necessary changes within the organisation’s structure and methods of work (production processes). Its task was also to deliver recommendations for the necessary improvements to IT systems and infrastructure. It was also responsible for the necessary IT developments and their implementation in production workflows as well as user (staff) support. The task-force was led by the Project manager and it was composed of the managers of the relevant departments. When it was necessary, brainstorming session were held involving everyone in the organisation. Project task-force regularly, at least once a month, informed the Board of the organisation which was a supervisor of the overall implementation of the project and took the necessary implementation decisions as well as took the necessary means of communication in political, social and practical level.

 9. What were the main obstacles encountered and how were they overcome?
Main obstacles encountered: - Cooperation with lobbyist of private sector – strong resistance – exercised in all levels - from the private sector involved in services of distribution of legal information. It has been overcome only when political decision has been made – with adoption of Law on official publication and legal information. - Insolvency of developer and service provider for creation of IT system for management of official notices right after delivery putting into production of the new IT system. In reality it meant that maintenance service is not available of the IT system during the period of production when usual the most bugs and problems are discovered. This is a critical component for production of official publications. Also, organisation is dependant on this system by the means of financial income. Urgently it was possible to involve other IT company which was able to undertake maintenance and further development of the system.

D. Impact and Sustainability

 10. What were the key benefits resulting from this initiative?
Both websites experience growing number of users: • www.vestnesis.lv is visited by 37000 regular users each month; * unique users in first 9 months of 2014 - 245 000 (more than 31% compared to 2012) • www.likumi.lv is visited by 325 000 regular users each month; total for first 9 months of 2014 - 1 671 416 (more than 19% compared to 2012). Mobile version m.likumi.lv (public form spring 2013) – dynamic growth in popularity: September 2014 - 55 860* unique users, a year before - 44 600 (25% less). Likumi.lv integration of social networks - it complements sharing and use experience of legislation. Bothe websites are active on Twitter: (@VestnesisLV and @Likumi) where respective followers regularly every day receive latest information in the field of official publications or systematized legislation. *Source: Google Analytics and Gemius, gemiusAudience; the leader and precursor of complex internet research in Central and Eastern Europe.

 11. Did the initiative improve integrity and/or accountability in public service? (If applicable)
Initiative is sustainable if there is adequate financing made available to perform its maintenance tasks and development which is determined by the ever-growing needs of the users and advancements in IT technologies. Information on the initiative has been shared within the European forum of Official gazettes – an informal organization composed of official publishers of EU Member States and candidate countries sharing experiences and learning from each other. Functional model for providing official publications has been chosen wisely in Latvia. It is confirmed by the fact that one year later Official Journal of the EU introduced official electronic publications following a similar model and technical principles.

 12. Were special measures put in place to ensure that the initiative benefits women and girls and improves the situation of the poorest and most vulnerable? (If applicable)
Lessons learned (success formula of this project): - competent, loyal, involved and motivated employees within the organisation; - stable and sufficient financial basis for a dynamic implementation of the project without bureaucracy obstacles often caused by legislative regulations: public procurement as well as other procedures when outsourcing specific functions; - outsource as less as possible (risk management).

Contact Information

Institution Name:   VSIA "Latvijas Vēstnesis"
Institution Type:   Government Agency  
Contact Person:   Daina Ābele
Title:   CEO  
Telephone/ Fax:   +371 67310675
Institution's / Project's Website:  
E-mail:   daina.abele@lv.lv  
Address:   Bruninieku 41
Postal Code:   LV-1011
City:   Riga
State/Province:  
Country:  

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