In its ongoing mission to “organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful,” Google has contributed to the creation of new project from the Comparative Constitutions Project called Constitute. This is a site that digitizes the world’s constitutions, and makes them searchable.
The project is being supported by Google Ideas, specifically. This is the branch of Google that has dealt with such projects as Small Arms & Ammunition Data Visualization, Cloud-based surveys in fragile states, a human trafficking hotline network, a network against violent extremism and the Network Mapper.
“Google Ideas seeds technology-driven initiatives by connecting users, experts and engineers around critical issues that people face in times of conflict, instability or repression,” Google explains. “We seek to reframe issues and work with partners ranging from technology companies to non-profits and academic institutions. With our partners we aim to build technology-based solutions that can drive positive impact at scale. Often these solutions are open-sourced to enable others to re-purpose them for new markets or different problems.”
The Comparative Constitutions Project aims to “investigate the sources and consequences of constitutional choices,” says its website.
On the Constitute site, users can browse constitutions by tagged topics, such as “Duty to serve in the military” or “Right to form political parties,” or by country. Things can get a lot more specific with search function.
There are 350 pre-tagged themes that can be browsed.
“The process of redesigning and drafting a new constitution can play a critical role in uniting a country, especially following periods of conflict and instability,” says Google Ideas product manager Sara “Scout” Sinclair Brody. “In the past, it’s been difficult to access and compare existing constitutional documents and language—which is critical to drafters—because the texts are locked up in libraries or on the hard drives of constitutional experts. Although the process of drafting constitutions has evolved from chisels and stone tablets to pens and modern computers, there has been little innovation in how their content is sourced and referenced. ”
“Our aim is to arm drafters with a better tool for constitution design and writing,” she says. “We also hope citizens will use Constitute to learn more about their own constitutions, and those of countries around the world.”
This could turn out to be a useful resource for years to come. According to Google, there are about five new constitutions written each year. 20-30 of them, Google says, are amended or revised each year.
A week earlier, and they could’ve launched on Constitution Day here in the U.S.