How Brazil is Blazing a Trail for Electronic Democracy
"Not content to let local provinces steal their thunder, the federal legislators of Brazil implemented a sophisticated online platform to crowdsource citizen expertise through Wikipedia-style legislation.
“Relying on the use of social media, combined with offline legislative events (e.g. committee hearings, conferences), the initiative is intended to reach a broad segment of the public, including citizens, parliamentarians, civil servants, researchers, nongovernmental organizations and interest groups,” writes Cristiano Ferri, co-developer of the online platform and researcher at Harvard’s Kennedy School.
After securing support from legislators and creating buzz in social media circles, Ferri’s team set up a two-phase process for participants. First, construct an online town hall of chats, forums, and an online library with support from experienced congressional experts. Second, use wiki-style consensus to present a concrete proposal to government representatives.
As far as outcomes, like e-budgeting, online legislation was a mixed bag. The project enhanced the legitimacy of a process historically tainted by strong interest group influence, and there were noticeable adoptions in at least one bill on the regulation of youth rights.
However, like its offline counterpart, citizen legislating receives a luke-warm reception in nearly every part of the world it is attempted, and the Brazilian politicians’ support was “very very low,” according to Ferri. This is, in part, because actual bills are an almost incomprehensible mess of legal jargon. As a result, Ferri says, citizens are not able to actually write a bill themselves.
However, e-legislating is still in its infancy, and crowdsourcing expertise has, in other arenas, shocked the world with its power and sophistication. Brazil’s parliament is committed to another round with e-legislation, and Ferri is optimistic the lessons learned from last year can make a big difference." (http://mashable.com/2010/09/14/brazil-electronic-democracy/)