How MFAs' profile pictures/cover photos project countries' online identities.

Social media is changing "business as usual" for governments, opening up democratic processes, delivering services both to understand and surveil constituents, managing threats and conducting direct diplomacy. Even so, adoption of social media is slow and uneven, with vast differences both between and within states. As more and more governments move towards e-government, their use of social media will grow. 

When the Icelandic government announced it would accept 50 refugees, its citizens rallied, using a Facebook event page to volunteer their homes and pressure the government to grant more refugees asylum. On Sunday, award-winning author Bryndis Bjorgvinsdottir set up the pageSyria is Calling. The group aims to present Iceland's welfare minister Eygló Harðardóttir a list of volunteers willing to house Syrian refugees.

We learned first-hand from Promote Iceland that travel surpassed their fishing industry only four short years after the disruptive actions of eruptions of the Eyjafjallajökull volcano in 2009. In response, 2010 was the first time that Iceland’s government, businesses, and citizens collaborated on a joint digital promotion effort. According toInga Hlín Pálsdóttir, Director, Tourism and Creative Industries at Promote Iceland, the message was “Iceland is not for everybody, but are for people who have the spirit of adventure, exploration and creativity.”

By all rights, Iceland -- a remote Arctic island inhabited by just 320,000 people -- should be a forgotten backwater. And for most of its history, it was. But in recent decades, the former Danish colony has begun to attract outsized attention from abroad. After its banks were fully privatized in 2003, foreign money poured into the financial sector, which grew to almost ten times the size of national GDP before bursting in a matter of days in October 2008.

Iceland wants to turn itself into a hub for business in the Arctic and strike more trade accords on its own after scrapping talks to join the European Union, its foreign minister said. “The focus of Iceland’s foreign policy is on the Arctic,” Gunnar Bragi Sveinsson said in an Oct. 25 interview in Reykjavik. The island will work for deeper cooperation within the Arctic Council and seek to provide a base in the region to help support trade with China, Singapore and South Korea, among others, he said.

Recently, the president of Iceland, Olafur Ragnar Grimsson, was in Washington to announce the launch of a new group called the Arctic Circle, which would include all counties and entities interested in greater involvement in Arctic-related decision-making. The Centre for Strategic and International Studies, a Washington think tank, proposed a series of reforms to US Arctic policy.