Open Source Legislation: How can the internet transform government?

UNESCO Chair Tim Unwin discusses the need for effective National ICT policies in promoting ICT for Development initiatives in his book ICT4D (2009). One reason is that, “there needs to be a forum in which civil society organisations can actively engage with governments at the national scale in determining the roll-out of ICT programmes.” (Unwin 150).

We tend to agree the expansion of ICT services can increase the quality of life for citizens, how can ICT policy and advancements increase the quality of government? How can governments benefit from creating channels of communication among citizens and to the law-making bodies?

If it is as Unwin speculates and government policies on ICT can encourage citizen input on ICT4D than can this same civil society engage with the government in other areas utilizing ICT channels?

Professor Clark Shirky from NYU gave a TED Talk in which he explores the potential of Open Source collaboration to influence the law-making process in democracies. Coders and programers are already using this technology for “cooperation without coordination.” “Legislation comes in the form of bills which are essentially patches to existing legal code”, a process familiar in open source world.

Clark asks: “why don’t we use git hub (a web-based hosting service) to show what a citizen developed bill might look like.” Several states are experimenting with e-government strategies to allow citizens to “explore some ideas around how to better facilitate the legislative process” using open source editing methods.

I must admit that some of the content of this video is above my level of understanding of ICT’s. However, it still poses some interesting questions: How could the internet transform government? How could democracies gain from utilizing the knowledge and innovations of its citizens? How could increasing internet participation and access also increase political participation?

Clay Shirky: How the Internet will (one day) transform government


One response to “Open Source Legislation: How can the internet transform government?

  • emilyschnitt

    In reading multiple articles about e-government since the beginning of this course, I have found that the properties of managing data and communicating with citizens could be extremely beneficial for governments, especially in developing countries. Unwin emphasizes the importance of governmental transparency, which ICTs could help greatly. Additionally, increasing citizen input in decisions through the ability to communicate and give feedback, which could allow for greater success of development projects by ensuring they are necessities for the citizens. The internet also increases free speech, which is a cornerstone of democracy, creating a more open environment.

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