The worldwide political chaos of 2011 is spurring one fascinating side effect--constitutional conventions in Europe and Africa are turning toward iPads and open source software to construct their countries' new rules of government.
In Tunisia, the post-revolution government is using the popular PiratePad collaborative, open-source text editor to help construct their constitution. The idea appears to have originated with Slim Amamou, a blogger with deep roots in the hacker community who's ascended into the upper echelons of Tunisian politics to become a Tunisian cabinet member.
In a Twitter posting, Amamou invited Tunisians to propose changes to the country's new constitution online:
Modifions collaborativement la constitution. On va voir ce que ça donne http://piratepad.net/4BHO1W6B5q
(Let's collaborate to modify the constitution. Let's see what will happen.)
Over at the TechPresident blog, Micah Sifry notes that the move is stirring debate in Tunisia:
Judging from the chat thread that emerged on that PiratePad, one very tough issue emerged--whether a new Constitution for Tunisia could exclude references to Islam as the religion of the country, or to God. And that was with a relatively small number of people actively commenting.
Tunisia is currently in the process of electing a constitutional council to write the new document; Amamou's move is intended as a preemptive strike intended to shape the debate surrounding the future constitution.
Amamou's French-language Twitter feed remains one of the best sources for Tunisian news online.
Meanwhile, a new constitution is being written in Hungary, too. But the medium is nothing like open-source.
Although it has not been extensively covered in the American media, Hungary elected a new right-wing government this past year which has been attacked as xenophobic and authoritarian by foreign critics. A controversial media law that was recently passed radically restricts press freedom in the country. Prime Minister Viktor Orban's government is writing a new constitution for Hungary; the country's old, Communist-era constitution was never changed following the 1989 revolutions.
However, this constitution is being written via iPad.
Joszef Sajer, a European Parliamentarian with the ruling right-wing Fidusz party, recently posted on his Hungarian-language blog on March 1 about how he is drafting Hungary's new constitution on an iPad. Bloomberg's Zoltan Simon provided a translation:
Steve Jobs will surely be happy when he gets word that Hungary’s new constitution is being written on an iPad, actually my iPad [...] The best is I don’t have to wait for minutes to turn it on, like with a normal laptop. I can open it anywhere and can take advantage of every minute. It’s a miracle!
(Wait 'till he tries to watch a Flash video.)
Szajer is one of the three Hungarian politicians drafting a new constitution. The other two members of the Hungarian constitution committee are also fellow members of Szajer's right-wing Fidusz party. It is unclear whether they are also Apple fanboys.