a modest proposal

Everyone’s taking the piss out of the Tories’ proposed £1m prize for a…something or other…ah,

an online platform that enables us to tap into the wisdom of crowds to resolve difficult policy challenges

Of course, it might be possible to make statements about this if only it was better specified. So everyone’s contented themselves with making fun of the press release and blaming blogs for the Iraq war. Or something. But underspecified is good in some ways…

If you want a proposal that could certainly be delivered for less than £1m, I’ve got one. Free Our Bills, MySociety.org’s proposed Web site to allow anyone to track the drafting process of UK legislation – to view amendments, make notes, monitor changes, and lobby Parliament in real time. Here’s my crack at a rough design of it, with a link to the Germans’ solution to the same problem.

Essentially, it’s a package manager for legislation – this talk at CCC describes relevant technology that’s actually being used for the Government’s data.gov.uk.

And you know what? David Cameron is on record supporting it. However, his party is also keen to fuck up anything the new Speaker, John Bercow, who is also sympathetic and is actually in charge of these things, wants – purely out of spite.

Also, if there’s any change left out of the cool million after that, you could even make a start on Who’s Lobbying – specifically, by setting up an internal registry of contacts with lobbyists for the Government. I asked Tom Watson MP about this last OpenTech – he thought there was no such log, which surprised me as it is something that would materially assist No.10 Downing Street and ministers in tracking what is actually happening in politics, quite apart from its utility as citizen technology.

But…the Government’s already promised to start doing it.

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