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Overcoming a Meltdown With Social Media

Iceland's Social Media

Iceland is a very small country with a big “brand” influence in a state of recovery, discovery and evolution.

“Few countries blew up more spectacularly than Iceland in the 2008 financial crisis. The local stock market plunged 90 percent; unemployment rose ninefold; inflation shot to more than 18 percent; the country’s biggest banks all failed.

This was no post-Lehman Brothers recession: It was a depression.”

Bloomberg, Sep 26, 2012

The collapse was profound, as was the response of Icelanders known for their tech savvy connectivity and fierce independence. The citizens didn’t wait for politicians to act or for banks to repossess their homes. True to their nature, these quirky and decisive people took to the streets with humble pots and pans, protesting at the doors of Parliament. In one show of solidarity after another, the masses refused to bear the burden of the failed policies of the lawmakers and money lenders. They demanded protection, accountability, resignations, transparency, and they called for a new constitution.

Which is exactly what they got. Iceland jailed its bankers, bailed out its people and ousted the “old boys” from office. It has reduced its unemployment to 5 percent, has repaid its loans ahead of schedule and is recovering economically at an enviable rate. All of which is impressive.

But it’s the rewriting of the constitution that should give every one of us with a Facebook page in a broken political and financial system cause for pause. Icelanders had lost confidence in their government- they didn’t wait for the “conspirators” to resurrect a plan that protected the “establishment.” Once again they got involved; the citizens, over 90 percent of whom have access to the web, engaged in an open, iterative, crowd sourced, digital project that ultimately re-framed the nation’s constitution. Over half of eligible voters participated simply and conveniently through social media. The referendum passed with 66 percent of the vote.

“… technology is having a greater impact on politics in both small and large communities. What could have taken months to accomplish is now possible in just hours, thanks to mobile phones and the Internet.”

Iceland’s President, Ólafur Ragnar Grímsso

All the world is watching as Iceland recovers, discovers and evolves; government officials and citizens are engaging, debating and solving real problems with technology driven collaborative tools. Collectively, Iceland defined policies that protect the stability of the island’s natural resources; declaring national control over lucrative fish reserves and the geothermal energy resources that aren’t already privatized one tweet at a time. Now they are weighing the social consequences and economic conflicts of further restricting access to violent internet pornography in a country that stands to profit as a haven of free expression. All of which begs the question: How do we solve our biggest cultural and business challenges with the social access and tools right at our fingertips?

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More Stories By Shelly Palmer

Shelly Palmer is the host of NBC Universal’s Live Digital with Shelly Palmer, a weekly half-hour television show about living and working in a digital world. He is Fox 5′s (WNYW-TV New York) Tech Expert and the host of United Stations Radio Network’s, MediaBytes, a daily syndicated radio report that features insightful commentary and a unique insiders take on the biggest stories in technology, media, and entertainment.