It’s quite surprising, but the UK’s House of Commons does not put the text of its bills on the Web in a user-friendly manner, making it bloody difficult — as they would say — for British citizens to know what’s really going on in Parliament when it comes to legislating.
Earlier today, our friends at MySociety.org, the U.K.-based nonprofit that builds Web sites to open up government and its services to benefit citizens, launched a campaign to convince Parliament to embrace the Internet Age.
The goal of the Free Our Bills campaign is to have Parliament put the text of bills online. The effort is titled "The Nice Polite Campaign to Gently Encourage Parliament to Publish Bills in a 21 Century Way, Please. Now." (We’ll give it an award for simply being the best named campaign ever.) How polite and British. (American style would be something like "Just Do It.")
As a Telegraph editorial from Sunday says, "this sort of initiative – non-partisan, volunteer-led, and driven by geeks using cheap technology cleverly does (much) to increase transparency and accountability" in the U.K. David Cameron, Conservative Party leader, endorsed opening up the workings of Parliament in a video statement, saying "I think that publishing bills in a way that works on the internet makes good sense — people should be able to see what Parliament is doing, what legislation means and how their MPs are voting." Here! Here!
Never thought we’d say it but Parliament has some catching up to do with Congress when it comes to openness and transparency in this arena. Here in the States we have Thomas, OpenCongress.org, Congresspedia, and other online transparency tools, but even these sources hardly touch all the information that we should have about Congress.
Congratulations to our co-conspirators at MySociety. I think you’ve got another successful project underway.