Finland and Iceland have both taken steps to crowdsourcing democracy, and they’ve made it look easy.
Finland allows legislation to be created by the citizens by linking the accounts on the Open Ministry project to their bank accounts or cell phones. If 50,000 people participate and sign a piece of proposed legislation on the Open Ministry project, within six months it is sent to Parliament. Iceland has had similar success with Better Reykjavik, an open platform for the city’s denizens to create and share ideas on how to improve the nation’s capital.
Recently, the Open Ministry project has introduced legislation to change Finland’s copyright laws. The Internet activists in Finland state, “We want a fair and just copyright law in Finland.” Finland is known for extreme copyright laws and the Open Ministry project is allowing the people to adjust those laws. My question is, why can’t the United States of America create a similar project for its citizens?
In Finland, the Open Ministry is a non-profit that “is about crowdsourcing legislation, deliberative and participatory democracy and citizens initiatives.” In the U.S., Representative Darrell Issa (R-CA) and Senator Ron Wyden (D-OR) introduced as a response to the SOPA legislation the OPEN (Online Protection and ENforcement of Digital Trade) Act. Ideas for the act were crowdsourced online at KeepTheWebOPEN.com, resulting in six ideas being incorporated into the Act. The OPEN Act, according Issa’s office, was “the first ever legislative markup truly open to the American public.”
According to Issa himself, “…the introduced version of the OPEN Act is proof that crowdsourcing can deliver better bills and a more accountable government.” That is something the crowdsourcing industry has known all along, but there has not been much pressure on the federal government to allow this type of citizen-driven democracy on a wider scale.
Wider implementation of citizen-driven legislative initiatives could:
- Balance the power given to corporate driven legislative bills
- Hold federally elected officials accountable to their constituents
- Create a national dialogue and advancement of citizen-driven politics
Crowdsourcing is the future of democracy. Visionaries in Congress like Issa and Wyden can make it happen. The problem is that crowdsourcing in government is so new that it’s not yet accepted on a wide scale, and many leaders may be scared of the impact it could have. But if America followed a similar protocol as Finland or Iceland, there could be a democratic institutional merit to this new tool.
Ronald Reagan said, “All great change in America begins at the dinner table.” He was right, and one can see that this change to a citizen-driven crowdsourcing of legislation will not happen unless there is an orchestrated effort on behalf of the crowdsourcing industry.
Let’s be realistic though – in order for a federally adopted program it must start out small. Let’s begin by asking municipalities in our government to start an open innovation crowdsourcing program for the city. Then, as it becomes engaging and proven positive for local government, implement it on a state level, and finally begin on a national level. What do you think are the best steps for this to happen?