Civipedia

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The idea behind this proposal is to build a wiki-based citizens' information portal for every state in the world. The purpose of a citizens' information portal is to provide essential and neutral information that is of use to citizens. This information can be a directory of services offered by local authorities, with links and telephone numbers, or it can be short (and factual) background information on matters like noise regulations or tenants’ rights and obligations.

An example of a currently existing citizens' information portal is www.citizensinformation.ie, a website run by the Irish government.

This proposal is to begin small. Initially, the wiki could begin with factual information on politicians, government department and local authorities. For example:

  • Details on members of parliament (e.g. email address, postal addresses, statistical information, etc.)
  • Background information on political parties (e.g. contact information, links to policy documents, statistical information on election results, etc.)
  • Lists of local authorities, details of local councillors and information on local authority departments

As it grew, it could include richer information, such as:

  • How the political system works
  • Consumer rights
  • Citizenship rights and obligations

However, it would be important to strike a balance between providing citizen information and duplicating the work of projects such as Wikipedia. Relevent articles on Wikipedia or Wiktionary could be linked to for greater discussion.

An aspect of the project that would determine its success or failure would be whether entries could be kept to-the-point, factual and neutral. The purpose of the wiki would be to provide information, not to comment on it. A well-defined set of policies and guidelines, developed in the early stages of the project (though necessarily evolving with it), would be essential. The project could be trialled in an initially small set of countries to determine these policies and guidelines before opening the project to an ever-increasing number of places.

Proposed by[edit]

Educational nature[edit]

Well-informed citizens are vital to the functioning of a successful polity. The nature of being "educated" in this sense can be varied. It may mean may knowledge about the functioning of the state (e.g. how often elections take place), or of one's rights and obligations (e.g. what are my rights and obligations as a tenant), or the practical knowledge needed to successfully interact with a state (e.g. who is my local councillor).

In the sense that "knowledge is power", the proposal fits with the Wikimedia Foundations mission "to empower and engage people around the world". Having this knowledge is transformative and empowering. Not having it is disabling and disenfranchising.

Relationship to other projects[edit]

Civipeida would compliment but not duplicate the work of other projects. For example, an article on being arrested or en:consumer rights on Wikipedia might discuss the topic in general and with a global perspective. On Civipedia, an entry dealing with the same topic would be very specific and with a local perspective. On Wikipedia, these article might give a historical perspective and balance differing views a subject. On Civipeida, there would be no "discussion" of the topic per se. Instead, Civipedia would focus solely and exclusively on essential information, without interpretation. On the knowledge hierarchy, Civipedia would exist at the "information" level. Wikipedia would exist at the "knowledge" level.

Civipedia could also relate to Wikisource as a means to link out to primary sources (laws, judgements, declarations, etc.) where relevant and where they exist. Wikitionary could be used to provide definitions for particular words, such as executive or franchise. It is imagined that Wikimedia Common would be used for all media, since there would be no scope for use of non-free media.

Drawing upon other projects would allow Civipedia to focus more precisely on its remit.

Benefits[edit]

Citizens' information portals already exist. Civipedia would not be inventing something new. Neither did Wikipedia. Encyclopedias (even free-to-use and online encyclopedias) existed before Wikipedia. The benefit of Civipedia is that it would be truly free. Not only free to use, but free in many other senses also.

Civipedia would be independent of the state services that it would be describing and thus free in that sense. it would be free to contribute to, to develop and to reproduce. By being people-owned and -driven, the project would be able to respond organically to the needs of a populus. For example, as times change, maybe advice on unemployment assistance would be a more generally needed by the population of a state. Or in times of elections, information on how to register for a poll and cast one's ballot may be more immediately needed by many people. There is a degree to which, at a philosophical level, there would be a benefit to the people of a state in creating, sharing and distributing knowledge on their state independently among themselves. In that sense, Civipedia would have a "liberating" sense of freedom also. It would be a simultaneously educational and empowering.

The benefits of Civipedia would be similar to the work of charities such as the Citizens' Advice Bureau in the UK, which is independent of the state.

Alternative names[edit]

  • Civilpedia

[Open to suggestions]

Related projects/proposals[edit]

Domain names[edit]

Because of its nature, the wiki would need to have specific instances for each state. These could be differentiated using ISO 3166-1 alpha-2 codes as subdomains, e.g.:

For federal states, these could be differentiated using two tiers of subdomains, e.g.:

It may be necessary in some states to provide different language versions. For example, in Belgium (be), where both French (fr) and Dutch (nl) are spoken. In these cases, it may necessary to use another tier of subdomains, e.g.:

Mailing list links[edit]

Demos[edit]

  • ie.civipedia.org — a "Civipedia Ireland", in the very early stages, to test the idea

People interested[edit]

  1. Rannpháirtí anaithnid
  2. Theking17825
  3. SomeDudeWithAUserName
  4. Fitoschido
  5. 66.190.32.220
  6. Cerejota
  7. Ttzavaras
  8. Montgomery
  9. Aswn
  10. Rodrigogomesonetwo
  11. Сергей Мальков
  12. Airon90
  13. Wer900 (talk)
  14. RalgisWM-CR
  15. Jayabharat (talk) 05:13, 31 January 2013 (UTC)
  16. Eduardofeld (talk) 13:59, 31 January 2013 (UTC)
  17. Addshore
  18. Could be useful, but great care should be taken to avoid adding unpublished personal information. --Jakob (Scream about the things I've broken) 23:04, 13 November 2013 (UTC)