document sharing

LOC crowdsources effort for international document sharing

The Library of Congress is looking for help from the public to get legislative documents into a format that will allow them to be easily shared with other countries.

Specifically, the library has issued Markup of U.S. Legislation in Akoma Ntoso as one of its Legislative Data Challenges and will award $5,000 to the individual or team that comes up with the best solution for converting U.S. legislative documents into the Akoma Ntoso XML format.

Akoma Ntoso is a framework used by many other countries to annotate and format electronic versions of parliamentary, legislative and judiciary documents.

"An international framework for legislative data would have to define the commonalities among the various data and documents across the legislative bodies, while at the same time being flexible enough to accommodate differences in culture, language, meaning and structure amongst the legislative bodies," said Gayle Osterberg, director of communications for the Library of Congress.

Accordingly, the library is challenging participants to help identify conflicts between the Akoma Ntoso framework and U.S. bill text where data cannot be incorporated properly within the existing standard. Participants are also challenged to propose new domain-specific metadata elements or possibly other solutions to overcome these challenges.

Why bother? "A common international exchange standard could give governments and the public more powerful ways of searching for, comparing, analyzing and tracking legislative information across jurisdictions," Osterberg said. "For instance, if there were a widely accepted data standard used by the [European Union], the U.K. and the U.S., a search engine could apply that widely accepted data standard and provide for a better, more granular search across the three document sets."

That would be a boon not only to those doing academic research, but also to those doing business with other countries.

The challenge, which is open to participants 18 years of age or older, closes on Oct. 31, 2013.

About the Author

Patrick Marshall is a freelance technology writer for GCN.

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