Public.Resource.Org: Good to Know


In my “Danger of Ignorance” post I talked about how important it is to be educated on political events, candidates, and bills. It’s also of prime importance to know the letter of the existing law.

I was cruising the web yesterday when I noticed the “$10M to the 5 Project 10^100 winners” notice at the bottom of Google’s homepage. Curious about any amount of money that size being awarded, I explored. Apparently, in 2008 Google hosted a contest asking for ideas. Just ideas. Google wanted to hear ideas from the people who used their engine, and not necessarily ideas about Google or even the internet.

Well, people responded. Over 150,000 ideas were submitted from more than 170 countries. The ideas were posted and voted on, the winners being those that garnered the most votes. Google picked the top 5 and distributed $10M among them. The top five ideas are as follows, in no particular order, directly quoted from Google’s info page:

Idea: Make educational content available online for free

Project funded: The Khan Academy is a non-profit educational organization that provides high-quality, free education to anyone, anywhere via an online library of more than 1,600 teaching videos. We are providing $2 million to support the creation of more courses and to enable the Khan Academy to translate their core library into the world’s most widely spoken languages.

Idea: Enhance science and engineering education

Project funded: FIRST is a non-profit organization that promotes science and math education around the world through team competition. Its mission is to inspire young people to be science and technology leaders by giving them real world experience working with professional engineers and scientists. We are providing $3 million to develop and jump start new student-driven robotics team fundraising programs that will empower more student teams to participate in FIRST.

Idea: Make government more transparent

Project funded: Public.Resource.Org is a non-profit organization focused on enabling online access to public government documents in the United States. We are providing $2 million to Public.Resource.Org to support the Law.Gov initiative, which aims to make all primary legal materials in the United States available to all.

Idea: Drive innovation in public transport

Project funded: Shweeb is a concept for short to medium distance, urban personal transport, using human-powered vehicles on a monorail. We are providing $1 million to fund research and development to test Shweeb’s technology for an urban setting.

Idea: Provide quality education to African students

Project funded: The African Institute for Mathematical Sciences (AIMS) is a center for math and science education and research in Cape Town, South Africa. AIMS’ primary focus is a one-year bridge program for recent university graduates that helps build skills and knowledge prior to Masters and PhD study. We are providing $2 million to fund the opening of additional AIMS centers to promote graduate level math and science study in Africa.

^(http://www.project10tothe100.com/index.html)

I like these ideas and the whole theme of the competition, but I want to focus on Public.Resource.Org. I went to their website and found a lot more than I was expecting. It’s a little difficult to navigate their website just because instead of their sidebars listing states or areas of law, they list things like fjc.gov, house.gov, law.gov, and bsc.ca.gov. Once clicked, these links take you to pages concerning the letter of the law. fjc.gov leads to the Federal Justice Center including informational videos, bench-books for judges and clerks, recent press coverage, and more.

I clicked on bulk.resource.gov/codes and read all about the Tennessee Fire Code, one of hundreds of codes listed for multiple states. This is valuable information, the only issue is that it is difficult to navigate. It’s very hard to find what you’re looking for. Aside from that, it’s a great opportunity to learn more about a specific area of law or government, with Public.Resource.Gov’s mission to make government more transparent for the common man.

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