By Russell Brandom on
The process of drafting a constitution is usually long, intricate and politically fraught — but with 160 different active constitutions to draw from, it’s also uniquely amenable to data analysis. With that in mind, Google has partnered with the Comparative Constitutions Project to launch a new site called Constitute, devoted to comparing the world’s constitutions. It examines nearly 350 constitutional themes, organized into topics like the duties of a citizen and the role of the executive. The result is a comprehensive view of how countries structure their governments, and a powerful tool for any would-be founders. As one co-founder put it, “If want to see what African constitutions have to say about the rights of women after 1945, you can do that in just a few clicks.”
“Our aim is to arm drafters with a better tool for constitution design and writing,” Google said in a post accompanying the launch. That’s a niche audience, to put it mildly, but it’s also an important one. In 2013 so far, Zimbabwe has already voted on a new constitution, and 2012 saw both Somalia and Syria adopt new founding documents, along with nearly half a dozen revisions from other countries. The hope is that, if Constitute can influence the next generation of constitutions and give citizens a greater sense of ownership over the documents, it could have a huge impact in years to come.