How Iceland is Schooling the World
What does it mean to govern in the digital age? Iceland's revolutionary decision to crowdsource its new constitution has a few things to teach us. Rather than leave governance to opaque bureaucracy and outdated institutions, this tiny island nation, which just two years ago suffered total financial collapse, is inviting its citizens to share, comment and participate in the constitutional process via its website and Facebook page.It's an extraordinary move, one that transforms the role of the web in governance from that of static outbound medium (look no further than the stodgy websites of most government agencies) to dynamic platform for collaboration, a kind of virtual Town Hall where everyone can exchange ideas and work toward common goals. Engaging citizens via the web isn't new—the Obama administration famously used social media to engage its supporters since the early days. But Iceland is unique in that it goes beyond engagement—even inspiring activism.Iceland's experiment invites genuine collaboration between citizens and government in a way that's rarely seen even in the most vibrant democracies. From human rights to the role of the president to foreign policy, every citizen of Iceland has the opportunity to not only take part in government, but to actively construct its future. This is what 21st-century government looks like.It's true that Iceland is a tiny, relatively homogenous country, and attempting such an experiment in a larger and more politically and ethnically diverse society like the United States would undoubtedly be more complicated. But that does not mean it would be impossible. Imagine what we could discover about ourselves if we lifted the veil of political rhetoric and allowed citizens, not agencies or institutions, to shape new ways of governing. We might even be surprised by our own collective brilliance.
By Robin Cangie