Finland’s 2012 Citizens’ Initiative Act: Crowdsourcing of Ideas for New Legislation
The Open Ministry
Government of Finland
On March 1st, 2012. the government of Finland adopted a national citizens law called the Finnish Citizens Initiative Act (CI-Act) as part of Finland’s constitutional reform. This initiative crowdsources ideas from citizens to propose new laws online, and if an initiative gathers 50,000 signatures, the government has to vote on it, offering a channel to pursue meaningful civic participation, and empowering citizens to set the agenda for political debate and promote changes in the legislation.
Crowdsourcing in the CI-Act can be observed on two levels. Ideas and initiatives for new laws are collected on digital platforms. Secondly, the task of campaigning and signature collection is outsourced via social media to a previously undefined group of people.
The Act can be traced back to the Citizen Participation Policy Program (CPPP) initiated by the government in 2003. This program tried to address the low electoral turnout rates in the country with less than half of the electorate under the age of 40 voting. The CPPP brought forward a number of digital citizen engagement initiatives, the CI-Act being one of the first to be fully implemented.
Methods in Action
Collection of ideas on a digital platform
Ideas and initiatives for new laws are collected on a digital platform names Open Ministry. This website was created by a non profit to allow people to propose initiatives online.
Law drafts are composed by campaign activists on Google Drive and published for debate and expressions of support or opposition on the digital platform. Voters can study the initiatives in more detail and research information before they sign up. A requirement on the format of the proposals was established so that they would have to be on the same format as the bills that would come from the government (ie. clauses, legal language).
The task of campaigning and signature collection is outsourced via social media. If a citizen decides to vote, he/she has to go through an online identification process. The “Open Ministry” website uses APIs from banks and mobile operators to confirm identities. Digital signature identification system is in place to replace the laborious and slow process of in person signature collection. Citizens have 6 months to collect 50,000 electronic or paper signatures from voters. Once they achieve the goal, the government has to vote on it. If majority of officials vote in favor of a proposal it would become law immediately.
The Equal Marriage Law was the first law to be approved under the CI-ACT in 2014. A bill that had been twice rejected. As of august 2015, this is one of 10 crowd-sourced legislative initiatives that have made their way so far to the Finnish Parliament.
Increase of civic participation
The government's CI-ACT site attracts 10,000-15,000 visits daily. Over the first year following the introduction of the Act, 650,000 signatures were collected, predominantly through electronic identification. In a country where 4.4 million people are eligible to vote, this is a very large number. A total of 372 initiatives have been submitted as of July 2015.
Change in constitution
The constitution was modified to allow every citizen proposal that collects a mere 50,000 signatures to get voted by Parliament. The Finnish Parliament also approved the creation of a secure platform to verify the electronic identification process.