Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Creating a Constitution with Open Data...

Most national or state constitutions aren't written from scratch, but rather are derivative works based off of other national and state constitutions. For example, the constitution of Japan looks remarkably similar to that of the U.S. (largely because it was written in 1946 when the U.S. occupied Japan after World War II). In fact, on average, 5 new constitutions are written every year, and even more are amended.

Could modern data-driven technologies help in the constitution-drafting process? Furthermore, could any individual potentially create a constitution that would govern some type of entity using such tools as well? What would be the consequences of this?

Google Ideas launched a website called Constitute in 2013 which allows people to not only view and download every national constitution in the world, but also has a feature that enables easy comparisons between them. Furthermore, Constitute let you mashup different excerpts from different sources so that, in effect, you can embed your own constitutional ideas in a single document and share it on social media. Going yet another step further, Constitute also makes all of their underlying data freely available through an open data portal, complete with its own API for programmers and research developers.

It's an interesting exercise to think about what type of constitution would you create for governing Internet use in the United States. What ideas would it embody? What values and/or rights and liberties would it be designed to protect? This is not as hypothetical as you might imagine. Brazil actually passed such an Internet Constitution last year. How might an open data approach affect outcomes?



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