|August 14, 2011
The newest government in the world was designed with help from comments on the internet. God help us all. After Iceland’s economic collapse in 2008, the island nation decided it was time to write a new constitution, this one not based on its parent country of Denmark but rather made from the original ideas of its citizens. Iceland’s small population of 320,000 elected 25 assembly members from 522 ordinary candidates (including lawyers, political science professors, journalists, and many other professions), who in turn opened their process up to the public in an unprecedented fashion. The Constitutional Council was highly active on Twitter, Facebook, YouTube and Flickr, where they solicited comments and suggestions for the new government. On Friday July 29th, 2011, the Iceland parliament officially received the new constitution, comprised of 114 articles divided into 9 chapters. Set to be reviewed, and then put before vote for ratification by October 1st, the internet-assisted document marks a possible paradigm shift in governing. In the 21st Century, we’re writing our constitutions with social media. The future is a crazy place.
From the elections to the website, Iceland has gone to great length to make their citizens feel involved and enabled by the process of writing the new constitution. Candidates for the constitutional assembly gathered thousands of signatures to appear on the ballot, and discussed their views publicly on 50 radio show presentations. The candidates also wrote about themselves on public websites including Wikipedia and Facebook. After The Constitutional Council was formed, there was a constant upstream of their proceedings to Twitter, and Facebook, along with regular photo updates on Flickr. You can find videos of The Constitutional Council on YouTube, but they’re in Icelandic. Just to give you a taste, here’s the inaugural meeting…opening with a song!
In many ways then, the new Iceland constitution was the first to ever be born completely in the public eye. Sure, constitutional assemblies are often open to some sort of public scrutiny, but Iceland’s was broadcast on the internet. Council members regularly interacted with commenters, and every week the latest drafts of the various chapters (or the work related to their writing) were shared via a public website. Live broadcasts of the open council meetings were shown every Thursday via their site as well as Facebook. There was even a regular e-newsletter. Iceland used the web like never before to open up their process to the world and attract the attention of their public.