Friday, June 29, 2012

A Big Step Forward for Legislative Data Standards

Legislative transparency is catching on.  Exhibit 1: OpeningParliament.org, a site to gather tools and propel legislatures toward a more open, participatory model. The site launch was sparked conference hosted by the National Democratic Institute (NDI), Sunlight Foundation and the Latin American Network for Legislative Transparency (LANLT) last month in Washington. The site links to the Declaration on Parliamentary Openness, which, among other provisions, calls for release of data in open, structured and non-proprietary formats and for allowing bulk download of data.

As the political movement for open data grows, the legislative unhackathon we held last month showed one of the tools that can be used to support it.  The legislative XML editor (AKN-editor) that we used for the event was initially built as an educational tool - to give users first-hand experience with the Akoma Ntoso XML standard for legislation.  You can see the editor in action in this 10 minute tutorial video that was prepared for the unhackathon.

The editor will now be used to teach Akoma Ntosa in the Lex2012 summer course in Ravenna, Italy. In addition, Professor Monica Palmieri, a leading expert in legislative data standards, and a participant in the unhackathon, has also showed off the AKN-editor to parliamentary staff in Brazil.

The Latin American Network for Legislative Transparency, a co-sponsor of the OpeningParliament.org  site, has also been very active in educating legislatures about the value of adopting XML standards for legislation, and we are hopeful that the AKN-Editor can help make the transition to data standards more user friendly.  In fact, Chile has recently called for proposals for an XML based editor for their legislative drafting (full disclosure-- I was part of a bid submitted for this RFP), and I can envision more parliaments in Latin America moving down this path, which could ultimately result in a platform for legislation that makes access easier and improves collaboration between nations.