Iceland crowd-sourced its new constitution. The U.K. government lets online petitioners get their proposals heard (kind of maybe) if they can collect 100,000 upvotes. But Finland just might have taken the longest stride yet into the great e-democracy frontier; the Scandinavian nation will allow new laws to be crowd-sourced online.
Thanks to the “Citizen’s Initiative,” which was passed earlier this year, any Fin can suggest a new law. If 50,000 of his/her fellow countrymen are on board, then the national parliament must, by law, consider the proposal. And now the whole process is accessible online. Here’s GigaOm:
[T]his crowdsourced law-making system is about to go online through a platform called the Open Ministry. The non-profit organization has been collecting signatures for various proposals on paper since 1 March, when citizens’ initiatives came in, but a couple of days ago the government approved the electronic ID mechanism that underpins the digital version of the platform. That means it can now go live on 1 October.
The system has been deemed sufficiently hack-proof, and now citizens can change the laws of the land while simultaneously watching cat videos on YouTube. Here, Open Ministry founder Joonas Pekkanen discusses his move towards digital governance.
It’s a pretty interesting move towards open democracy here, but let’s take care in how we digest stories like this; let’s be wary of the techno gloss. After all, in a good, high-functioning democracy, laws are “crowd-sourced” anyways. A lot of people demanding a change in their society’s rules, and having access to a means by which to do so, is not a revolutionary event just because it’s been branded with an eye-rollingly pervasive buzzword. California has been crowd-sourcing laws for decades, and many other states and nations have such citizens’ initiatives too.
But it’s true that good online software like Open Ministry does stand to improve the efficiency and operability of such systems, to speed up the process, and to imbue the proceedings with a modern flair more appealing to the younger gen — which means more people might use it. But this no silver bullet, either; clicking ‘like’ or downvoting new laws on a whim won’t necessarily improve the fabric of society. Participatory democracy requires, yeah, participation, which means time and sweat and thinking, no matter if you’re checking a box with a number 2 pencil at the polls or clicking through a shiny new interface online.