Washington, D.C. - Speaker Pelosi delivered remarks this afternoon at the Capitol during the opening session of the World e-Parliament Conference. The World e-Parliament Conference is addressing how the use of information and communication technology can help improve representation, transparency, accountability, and effectiveness of parliaments around the world. Below are the Speaker's remarks, as prepared:
'Thank you, Madam Clerk. As Clerk of the United States House of Representatives, Lorraine Miller has led the way in Congress for increased transparency and civic interaction. Lorraine's tenure has been marked by innovative thinking and progress on citizen engagement. The information available on the Clerk's web site - including all roll call votes, financial disclosures, and details of the legislative process - strengthens our democracy.
'I would like to thank this week's co-organizers, UN Under Secretary General for Economic and Social Affairs, Mr. Sha Zukang, and the Secretary General of the Inter-Parliamentary Union, Mr. Anders Johnsson. And the two co-Chairs of the Global Centre for ICT in Parliament, Speaker of the People's Assembly of Egypt, Speaker Sorour and the Deputy Speaker of the Hungarian National Assembly, Deputy Speaker Pelcz. I thank all the leaders from the 88 countries represented here today for engaging in e-Parliament's dialogue about how we can better communicate with our citizens.
'In the history of American democracy, there was a time when a message could travel only as fast as a horse could gallop or a ship could sail. Today, a message from the American people to their representatives in Congress travels as fast as a citizen can twitter, blog, or post to Facebook.
'Leading the way in this regard are the young people of the world. In my travels as Speaker, I have met with presidents, prime ministers, and kings. But what impressed and inspired me the most were my encounters with young people. Young people are engaged in their own international dialogue through the most current forms of technology.
'In Iran following the election, hundreds of thousands participated in protests organized over Twitter. In America, students joined in solidarity on Facebook and Twitter by turning their profile pictures green - the color of the opposition party. Young people are disruptive thinkers - unsatisfied by the status quo. And so too must we be. E-Parliament gives us an opportunity to break with old ways of thinking and engage in dialogue just as the young people of the world are.
'When it comes to governance, technology provides opportunities for discussion and engagement; it strengthens accountability; ultimately it makes democracies more democratic. Or as President John F. Kennedy said, ‘A nation that is afraid to let its people judge the truth and falsehood in an open market is a nation that is afraid of its people.'
'When I became Speaker, I pledged we would have the most open Congress in history. Led by the innovation and enthusiasm of young people, Americans and Members of Congress are holding a running conversation - in real time. There is no greater tool to increase transparency than the internet. Now, Americans can watch committee hearings, check votes, read bills, and review financial disclosures--all online. Next month, they will be able to see exactly how Members of Congress are spending their office funds, and at the start of next year, they will be able to watch and search our House floor proceedings in real time.
'The internet provides citizens with new ways of obtaining and digesting the work of government. For example, in February, when we passed the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act to jumpstart our economy, we required the creation of recovery.gov to disclose how funds are spent, all announcements of contracts, grant competitions and awards, and the posting of certifications by governors, mayors, or others making funding decisions that the investment has been fully vetted and is an appropriate use of taxpayer dollars.
'Members of Congress who want to communicate with their constituents are using web video conferencing to talk to students about the environment, Tweeting what's happening in Congress, blogging their positions, Facebooking and text messaging; they are posting YouTube videos, holding tele-town halls, and using Google maps to show how Recovery Act projects are progressing in their districts.
'The countries represented at the World e-Parliament Conference face different challenges in bringing technology to your citizens. The United States faces its own challenges. To allow all Americans to benefit from the economic opportunities that innovation creates, we need an infrastructure that is wired for the future. In the last year alone, home broadband adoption has increased by 15 percent; but we must do more. The United States lags in broadband penetration behind many of the countries represented here.
'Broadband access was a priority of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. We provided more than $7 billion to expand broadband access in this country, and $350 million dollars to develop a national broadband map to ensure that every American has access to broadband capability and the jobs this creates. We are looking at access, affordability and also larger questions of how to use broadband to advance civic participation, consumer welfare and other national purposes.
'In this regard, we are also informed by the disruptive thinking of young people. When I suggested to Google co-founder Larry Page that one of our goals was universal broadband in ten years, he said, ‘Ten? Why not two?'
'Today, as you discuss the future of information and communication technologies in parliaments around the world, the health care debate rages in this very building. As Members of Congress engage in one of the most significant issues of our time, so too do the American people, through technology. Last week, a document we produced on the Top 14 provisions in our health bill was downloaded three times a minute. Searches for health reform on Google have increased more than threefold. Our Facebook group for health reform has been visited by Americans from all across the country - with 54 percent under 34 years of age. And in the last week alone, I have received more than 30,000 emails on the importance of health care reform.
'President Obama was launched into office, in part, by his innovative approach to new media and the enthusiasm of young people. As President, he's also using technology to communicate in new ways. We now have a President who harnesses the power of social networks, YouTubes his weekly radio address, and encourages his Cabinet Secretaries to answer questions on Facebook. President Obama has correctly called the information maintained by the federal government a ‘national asset.' And he created two new positions to ensure this information is widely available to our citizens: a Chief Information Officer and Chief Technology Officer.
'As the new Chief Information Officer, Vivek Kundra, has stated: ‘[m]aking the information and operation of government more open and accessible will drive accountability, performance, and engagement...Democratizing government data will engage citizens and fundamentally change how government operates.'
'This morning, Congress heard an inspirational speech from the Chancellor of Germany, Angela Merkel. In her address, the Chancellor reminded us that it was 20 years ago that the Berlin Wall came down and freedom was brought to all the people of Germany. Today the citizens of East Germany enjoy democracy. But there are still people around the world living behind walls of despotism. There are people are who exist without what the United Nations Charter calls, ‘fundamental human rights...the dignity and worth of the human person...the equal rights of men and women and of nations large and small...'
'No tyrant can forever hold back the force of technology. Because technology makes holes through walls erected to keep information out; technology builds bridges; technology promotes freedom. This week, let us come together to foster transparency and openness for our citizens and for all people of the world.'