Tiny but tech-savvy Iceland is overhauling its constitution in the wake of an economic catastrophe and has turned to the internet to get input from citizens.
7:00AM BST 10 Jun 2011
The 25-member council drafting the new constitution is reaching out to Icelanders online, especially through social media sites Facebook and Twitter, video-sharing site YouTube and photo site Flickr.
Iceland's population of 320,000 is among the world's most computer-literate. Two-thirds of Icelanders are on Facebook, so the constitutional council's weekly meetings are broadcast live on the social networking site as well as on the council's website.
"It is possible to register through other means, but most of the discussion takes place via Facebook," said Berghildur Bernhardsdottir, spokesman for the constitutional review project.
When the North Atlantic island nation gained independence from Denmark in 1944, it simply took the Danish constitution and made a few minor adjustments, such as substituting the word "president" for "king."
A thorough review of the constitution has been on the agenda ever since, but action came only after the crisis in 2008, when Iceland's main commercial banks collapsed within a week, the krona currency plummeted and protests toppled the government.
"To me, it has long been clear that a comprehensive review of the constitution would only be carried out with the direct participation of the Icelandic people," said Iceland's Prime Minister Johanna Sigurdardottir, one of the champions of the constitutional review since taking office in 2009.
She says it is a "distinct possibility" that the draft constitution will be put to the people in a referendum before Iceland's parliament debates final approval.
The 25 members of the constitutional council were elected by popular vote from a field of 522 candidates aged 18 and over. The council is basing its work on a 700-page report prepared by a committee that took into account the findings of 950 randomly selected Icelanders - the National Forum - who met for a day to discuss the division of powers, conservation and protection, foreign relations and more.
But, the internet component is still the most direct route for most Icelanders to weigh in. Members of the public must provide their names and addresses, and can then submit online recommendations, which are approved by local staff to avoid Internet heckling. The ideas are then passed on to the council, and are open for discussion online.