Life, liberty and the pursuit of crowdsourcing: Iceland’s constitutional saga

August 29th, 2011 by

microtask_iceland_constitutionIf there was a top ten of crowdsourcing nations, Iceland would be the new number one. Back in June the small Northern state hit the (tech) headlines when politicians announced plans to crowdsource a new constitution. At first, I confess I was skeptical. In my experience government crowdsourcing projects are like Mars probes: there’s a massive launch, then six months later they mysteriously vanish without trace. But not this time. On July 29th Reykjavik declared the new constitution complete: for the people and most definitely by the people.

So how do you crowdsource a whole new system of government? Basically the same way you crowdsource anything: invite citizens to suggest new ideas via websites and social networks. Of course, it helps that Iceland has 94% internet penetration and over a thousand years of democratic history.

The finished constitution document is now available online in both Icelandic and English. Policies include electoral reform, government transparency and decentralization. There’s an impressive absence of “Jedi clauses” or “pastafarian amendments” so either web users are finally growing-up or (as my inner cynic suspects) the Icelandic Government employed some hard-core moderators and editors.

Iceland’s pioneering crowdsourcing efforts have certainly wowed the blogosphere. The project’s Facebook wall is covered with international messages of support (plus a few Icelanders attempting actual political debate). It seems people everywhere love a bit of crowdsourced democracy. Iceland is the first country to achieve constitutional reform via crowdsourcing. I suspect it won’t be the last.

  • Frankshines

    Excellent article!  It once again proves out the predictions outlined in Alvin Toffler’s 1989 book, Powershift, in which he suggests that new technologies (such as crowdsourcing) will disrupt traditional political institutions.