Iceland is currently drafting a new constitution for its 320,000 citizens. While the process is in the hands of a democratically elected 25-member council, recommendations are being solicited from all Icelanders via online, realtime channels, including Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and Flickr. Engadget neatly refers to it as “crowdsourced constitutionalism.”
Big Think reports that all citizens can submit suggestions (after registering their name and address – no anonymous suggestions will be posted) which will be approved by local staff, then passed on to the council and opened up for discussion online. If a recommendation is approved by the council, it is then added to the constitution, and once again opened up for comments on the council’s website. Once the constitution is complete (by the end of June), it will be sent to parliament for debate and approval.
Every day short interviews with delegates are posted on Youtube and Facebook, and every Thursday the Constitutional Council meetings are broadcast live on Facebook and on the Constitutional Council webpage.
However, Engadget points out that only Icelanders with internet connections can weigh in, join online debates, or follow the proceedings in realtime on Facebook. While this “fascinating social experiment” works in a country where “nearly 90% of all households” have internet, and “two-thirds of the entire population is on Facebook,” what happens when a significant portion of the population doesn’t have online access?
Will other bodies of government – from local to national – adopt crowdsourcing in realtime to aid the decision-making process? And do Facebook and Twitter really work effectively for crowdsourcing purposes, or do we need to create “innovative, well-designed platforms” for brainstorming, organizing, and moderating large-scale, crowdsourced discussions, as suggested by Big Think?