Clinton espouses tech tools for diplomacy in Brazil

Appearing at a high-level meeting in Brazil, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton pledged to distribute new policy guidance to all U.S. embassies on how to use digital technology tools to foster diplomacy.

Clinton spoke on April 17 at the first high-level meeting of the global Open Government Partnership, a group of more than 50 governments that have made commitments for transparency, accountability and citizen participation. The April 17 meeting had representation from 73 governments and more than 200 civil organizations.

The partnership was launched in September 2011 by President Barack Obama and Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff. As a founding member of the partnership, the Obama administration released the U.S. National Action Plan outlining 26 initiatives for improving public integrity, participation, resource management and public services.

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At the meeting, held in Brazil's capital city Brasilia, Clinton said that new media and technology tools are being applied by the United States in e-diplomacy efforts. Those include U.S. embassy Facebook pages, State Department Twitter feeds and internal social networks to foster more information-sharing within the department.

“We now have tools that other generations could only dream of,” Clinton said at the meeting, according to a video livestream of the event.

The tools have enabled release of large amounts of government data, publishing of national budget figures online and connecting citizens with each other and with government agencies, she added.

Clinton said she would be distributing policy guides to all U.S. embassies around the world on modernizing diplomacy through technology. A copy of the guidance document was not immediately available.

"We want to open up the State Department not only to U.S. citizens, but to people everywhere, because in keeping with the principles of open government and this partnership, we believe that when people are empowered to speak their minds and leaders are held to account for their actions, we all do better," she said.

At the same time, she cautioned that technology solutions alone will not make governments open. The key is cultural change and commitment.

“Technology is not some kind of a magic wand,” Clinton said. “Corruption, closed doors…those are as old as human nature. The new tools do not change human nature.”

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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