Sunday, September 30, 2007

Software New Zealand to Pioneer Wiki-based Laws

New Zealand will allow citizens to decide what is legal or not via wiki

New Zealand's Policing Act governs what is legal and what is illegal for its citizens. Now New Zealand will take a grand, bold step by allowing its citizens to collectively rewrite its laws in pure democratic fashion.

While the idea hearkens back to ancient democratic forums, the medium is decidedly high-tech -- the nation will use a wiki to allow citizens to contribute to the new policing act. The page will help people organize their thoughts and collectively make decisions.

Ward Cunningham, inventor of the wiki, chose the Hawaiian word "wiki" rather than the English term "quick" to avoid coining the term "quick-web." Cunningham's first collaborative database was a simple, quick way to store vast amounts of user-contributed data. His idea would eventually seed one of the most trafficked sites on the Internet: Wikipedia.

New Zealand Police Superintendent Hamish McCardle, responsible for the review, calls the move "a new frontier in democracy" and sees the pilot as essential for police to understand public sentiment. "It's a novel move but when it comes to the principles that go into policing, the person on the street has a good idea ... as they are a customer," he claims.

The old Policing Act dates back to1958, and modern police feel the code could not accurately and fairly police its citizens in the modern landscape.

New Zealand Police boldly decided that changing the law should not be relegated to government politicians and bureaucrats.

Allegations that criminals will exploit the process to write legal loopholes do not concern McCardle. "We have been asked if we are worried about it being defaced, but wikis generally haven't been defaced internationally -- people generally are constructive and productive," claims McCardle.

McCardle specifically notes the success of Wikipedia as proof wiki-based contributions can lead to something constructive.

The Wiki is also open to people worldwide, so everyone from academics to amateur politicians can have a say in what they think would help make a safe and productive society. However, the site is temporarily not accepting new entries due to the volume of new entries.

New Zealand successfully launched a smaller wiki, dubbed ParticipatioNZ, to study the effectiveness of wikis in government.

Jason Mick


Claude Innes said...

Wow!! Progressive - interesting to see how this plays out. Impressive.

Harold Jarche said...

Gee, I wonder how many politicians and bureaucrats in Canada would know what a wiki is.

Signed: Cynical in Sackville ;-)