Public.Resource.Org has published 701 technical standards for the Republic of India. These government-produced documents cover everything cover a vast array of topics important to the people of India, including fascinating topics such as specifications for spices and condiments (tamarind pulp, cloves, fenugreek, curry powder). You'll also find safety specifications for bicycles, codes of practice for fire brigades, water testing methods, and codes of hygiene for food hawkers.
We are relying on India's Right to Information Act of 2005, one of the world's strongest freedom of information laws and one that makes clear that the works of government are owned by the people not the bureaucracies. At stake in publishing these technical standards is an important principle advanced by U.S. Justice Stephen Breyer: "if a law isn't public, it isn't a law." In today's technical world, our most important laws are these technical specifications, yet all over the world these standards are locked up behind pay walls. The legal principle that in a democracy citizens must be able to know the law if one that spans the world. Since May, Public.Resource.Org has been publishing technical standards required by law for the United States and we have received no protests, complaints, or takedown notices from any of the Standards Development Organizations (SDOs).
Coming up next are public safety standards for Africa. We will also be adding the National Building Code and National Electrical Code to the Indian collection. Own your government: read the manual, read the laws.
Mark Frauenfelder is the founder of Boing Boing and the editor-in-chief of MAKE and Cool Tools. Twitter: @frauenfelder. His new book is Maker Dad: Lunch Box Guitars, Antigravity Jars, and 22 Other Incredibly Cool Father-Daughter DIY Projects