President Ólafur Ragnar Grímsson, speaking at a tech conference in the US last Thursday, told the press that the believes social networking sites are making government institutions increasingly irrelevant in public discussions over the issues of the day.
Speaking at the PopTech conference in Maine, USA, the president gave an interview with CNN, where he shared his thoughts about Icelanders’ relationship with social media:
This so-called social media has transformed our democratic institutions in such a way that what takes place in the more traditional institutions of power — congress, ministries, even the White House or the presidency and the cabinet in my country — has become almost a sideshow.
I know it’s a strong statement, especially coming from someone who spent most of his life within those institutions. But the power of the social media is, in my opinion, transforming the political process in such a way that I can’t see any chance for the traditional, formal institutions of our democratic systems to keep up.
Social networking sites such as Facebook, YouTube and Twitter were vital tools for organising and sharing information during the Pots and Pans Revolution. The president said that he believes the main reason why Icelanders took to using social networking sites is because of the people’s literary tradition.
Reading was always important to people in Iceland and a literary creativity. Somehow, with the digital revolution, this interest was transported over to computers, websites, mobile phones and so on. So Iceland now ranks among the top countries in all of these areas, and it has brought forward a new generation of people who are creating companies in these fields.