State Department shows off digital skills on Twitter

Tweets in Arabic, 'Twitter Town Hall' and open-source conference highlight digital diplomacy

The State Department is flexing its digital diplomacy muscles this week with several high-profile events and activities that aim to connect with the public and spur innovation.

  • The department today is holding a live online “Twitter Town Hall” for U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Susan Rice on the social media website Twitter and on Ustream.tv.
  • On Feb. 9, officials launched an Arabic-language Twitter account.
  • On Feb. 11, State officials are to sponsor the daylong Tech@State conference with presentations on open-source technologies for diplomacy, featuring speakers from government agencies, industry, academia and the media.

Rice headed to Twitter headquarters in San Francisco for the live chat starting at 10 a.m. Pacific Time, where she will respond to questions submitted via Twitter with the hashtag #AskAmbRice.

“Just don’t ask me my age or my views on Betamax vs. VHS. And keep your questions to less than 140 characters, please,” Rice posted on the White House blog today announcing the event.


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On Feb. 9, the department initiated a Twitter account, @USAbilAraby, which publishes in Arabic. As of 1 p.m. today, the account had 12 tweets and 619 followers.

“We tweet directly in Arabic,” was tweeted earlier today, one of a handful of microblog posts written in English.

The sold-out Tech@State conference will be held at the department's headquarters and also video-streamed live online. Featured speakers including Federal Chief Technology Officer Aneesh Chopra and Susan Swart, the department's CIO. The discussion will cover topics including open source for data, geospatial applications, education technologies, cities and states, and health care.

”The open-source movement has opened a window for rapid development and implementation of technological solutions in the government space, but there are unresolved issues,” the Tech@State announcement states. “How do we address procurement, accessibility, and security issues? Do policies written for other forms of technology apply in this space? What standards are in place for developing open-source projects and documenting them? What can the larger government community learn from organizations that are already using Open Source technologies, and how might they use them better? And, ultimately, what is the role of government in creating a healthy community for open-source innovation?”

The department’s Tech@State series of conferences are designed to connect technology innovators with those interested in diplomacy and development to facilitate up-to-date statecraft. Previous Tech@State events have convened around Haiti disaster relief, mobile money, and Civil Society 2.0.







About the Author

Alice Lipowicz is a staff writer covering government 2.0, homeland security and other IT policies for Federal Computer Week.

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