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Re: Legislation on the web...

From: Kjetil Kjernsmo <Kjetil.Kjernsmo@computas.com>
Date: Mon, 8 Sep 2008 09:48:05 +0200
To: public-egov-ig@w3.org
Message-Id: <200809080948.05958.Kjetil.Kjernsmo@computas.com>

On Sunday 07 September 2008 19:19:55 Peter Krantz wrote:
> Is there anyone else that is involved in a project that aims to put
> your national legislation on the web? We are currently half way
> through a project where we use a lot of W3C standards/technology (e.g.
> RDFa, OWL, RDFS, XHTML et al) to put swedish legislation online in a
> better shape than what exists today.

The text of Norwegian laws was published on the Web pretty early. A company 
called Lovdata gave commercial access to laws through the web, but in 1994, a 
group of volunteers started publishing texts freely, as they felt that these 
text should be freely available. One of the people who did this was Håkon 
Wium Lie, then at CERN, now Opera's CTO. There is a lot of interesting 
history behind this [1], but the result was that Lovdata eventually agreed to 
give free access to laws. I think that other parts of the legislation is also 
to some extent freely available.

My company, Computas, does a fair amount of work that involves encoding laws 
in rules and code. This is something that we indeed hope can be done with W3C 
technologies such as OWL and RIF in the future. 

However, the problem is that laws are simply not very logical. There are many 
cases where you cannot say if (you do this) then (this happens). Laws are 
sometimes deliberately vague, to allow for human consideration, which, I 
suppose is a good thing. But there are also many cases where politicians 
simply has had no idea of logic and consistency, which I feel is not at all a 
good thing.

I feel that publishing legislation for human consumption is a very different 
problem from actually encoding legislation for machine consumption. The 
latter will require a lot of research, where the CS bit is probably the 
easiest to get straightforward answers. I think it would be very 
controversial whether law should be codified into rules that can be processed 
by machines. 

From what I know today, I think there are many cases where it is desireable 
(tax law and public support functions, for example), while there are others 
where it should probably not be done (criminal code as the prime example).

The details are unclear at this point, but I think we're getting involved in 
research on this topic.

[1] Norwegian text: http://www.w3.org/People/howcome/NorgesLoWWWer.html

Kind regards 

Kjetil Kjernsmo
Senior Knowledge Engineer
Direct: +47 6783 1136 | Mobile: +47 986 48 234
Email: kjetil.kjernsmo@computas.com   
Web: http://www.computas.com/


Computas AS  Vollsveien 9, PO Box 482, N-1327 Lysaker | Phone:+47 6783 1000 | 
Fax:+47 6783 1001
Received on Monday, 8 September 2008 07:48:35 UTC

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