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NZ Police ‘Wiki’ - Widespread Oversea Interest

NZ Police ‘Wiki’ Experiment Leads To Widespread Overseas Interest

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When the New Zealand Police decided to use a “wiki” to collect ideas for the rewriting of their own Act, they had little idea that it would lead to worldwide interest and the decision by several countries and agencies, like the US Department of Homeland Security, to look at doing exactly the same thing.

The submissions received the Police are now before the New Zealand parliament, along with other submissions made in the more standard format. But the decision to democracise the process by using an online tool like Wikipedia has caught the imagination of various government agencies.

“We’ve had a very strong response from overseas,” says project manager Superintendent Hamish McCardle. “There have been enquiries from the Japanese Diet, from Germany, the British House of Commons, the Department of Homeland Security in the US, the French Law Commission and others.”

The interest has came from people interested in various aspects of the experiment, such as those interested in ‘e-democracy’ and those interested in the sheer thought of being able to contribute easily to the writing of legislation.

But also the interest has been in an area much broader than the subject at hand – in this case New Zealand policing. It has rather been to look at often fundamental – or farfetched – ideas surrounding the particular law.

It was, says Hamish McCardle, an inspired decision to consider the “unbounded nature” of the wiki.

“We had looked at alternative ways of considering the Police Act amendments, using things like public meetings, essay competitions, online discussions and so on.”

So who contributed? As wiki contributors were anonymous it permitted the comments of anyone, anywhere. But Supt. McCardle suggests that many of the contributors were youthful, given the language used apart from the medium.

To avoid suggestions being overwritten or amended, and to comply with State Services ‘cyber ethics’ requirements, the wiki team downloaded the submissions overnight, closing the wiki, before reopening. “The results were all posted online so people could see it and it is that material that has gone to the select committee,” said Supt. McCardle.

And many of the suggestions were original and of interest, although whether they will ever be adopted is up to the parliamentary select committee who are now considering all submissions, whether wiki submissions or not. For instance, the suggestion of a panel of eminent New Zealanders to consider policing options, was one suggestion. Another was for the development of bounty hunters, an offshore suggestion that had been something of a ‘leftfield’ view, but nonetheless typical of what the wiki platform could deliver.

“We didn’t know what to expect,” said Supt. McCardle. “But we were overwhelmed with the level of interest in what we were doing.

“Some people were surprised at a policing agency leading that discussion, but for most kiwis they were less surprised.”

And the future? Undoubtedly the wiki experiment has set alight a public policy argument in both New Zealand and elsewhere that will unquestionably see the format used for future debate and thinking.


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