State Department's e-diplomacy efforts outpace other nations'

The State Department is now the leading user of technology tools for diplomacy, or e-diplomacy, with more than 150 full-time personnel applying it in programs such as the internal Diplopedia wiki and Corridor social media network, according to a new study.

But e-diplomacy has been slower to catch on with other foreign ministries, in part because its applications are still evolving and hard to define, Fergus Hanson, visiting fellow in e-diplomacy at the Brookings Institution. He also is a research fellow at the Lowy Institute for International Policy, a think tank based in Australia.

“The slow pace of adaptation to e-diplomacy by many foreign ministries suggests there is a degree of uncertainty over what e-diplomacy is all about, what it can do and how pervasive its influence is going to be,” Hanson wrote in the paper, which was recently published online by the Lowy Institute. Hanson researched e-diplomacy at State on a four-month research grant.

E-diplomacy is defined in the study as the use of Web and new information and communication technologies for diplomatic objectives. The tools include wikis and social networks, and some tools still in development will allow for even more customization and connectivity between users, the study said.

At State’s headquarters in Washington, DC., there are currently 25 separate e-diplomacy nodes with 150 full-time-equivalent staff, according to Hanson. Citing a separate study, he added that another 935 overseas staff also are employing e-diplomacy tools, to some degree, or the equivalent of 175 full-time personnel.

The department is utilizing e-diplomacy for eight missions, including public diplomacy, Internet Freedom, Consular communications, Disaster Response and Policy Planning, the report said. The tools being used include Twitter, Facebook, Tech@ State  conferences and the Virtual Student Foreign Affairs Officer program.

It also is using the IT tools internally for knowledge management, including the Diplopedia internal wiki and Corridor internal social media network.

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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