International

How technology changes the world of diplomacy

Tanzania embassy

The 1998 bombing of the U.S. Embassy in Tanzania was one of the events leading to the acceleration of electronic diplomacy in the State Department, according to a new report.

The increasing use of social media, mobile apps and other technology is changing the way diplomacy works, according to a new Brookings Institute report. And the U.S. State Department is at the forefront of that change.

The report, written by Fergus Hanson and called "Baked In and Wired: eDiplomacy@State," traces the department's adoption of electronic tools to the bombings of two U.S. embassies in 1998, and credits Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and former Secretary Condoleezza Rice with accelerating the effort.

However, Hanson notes that technology brings risks as well as opportunities for foreign ministries. In summarizing both sides of the coin, he offers this list:

  • The opportunity to influence and speak directly and more frequently to large audiences, which can in turn build political influence. In the case of State, this involves its emergence as a de facto media empire.
  • The opportunity to segment audiences and target messages to key groups.
  • Broadening awareness among diplomats of political and social movements that are driven from the bottom up by providing an early warning capability.
  • The chance to listen to voices and receive information previously unavailable to diplomats. With the new opportunity to monitor the views of so many people on so many topics all the time, technology should help good listeners to better understand the complexity of politics, society and culture beyond the elite views represented in traditional diplomatic sources.
  • The risk of economically costly damage to a country’s reputation or key exports in incredibly short time-frames.
  • The challenge of competing for a voice when everyone can communicate and, in some cases, with individuals or organizations that are more successful at controlling a foreign policy message than governments.

The full report is available on the Brookings web site.

About the Author

Technology journalist Michael Hardy is a former FCW editor.

The Fed 100

Read the profiles of all this year's winners.

Featured

  • Shutterstock image (by wk1003mike): cloud system fracture.

    Does the IRS have a cloud strategy?

    Congress and watchdog agencies have dinged the IRS for lacking an enterprise cloud strategy seven years after it became the official policy of the U.S. government.

  • Shutterstock image: illuminated connections between devices.

    Who won what in EIS

    The General Services Administration posted detailed data on how the $50 billion Enterprise Infrastructure Solutions contract might be divvied up.

  • Wikimedia Image: U.S. Cyber Command logo.

    Trump elevates CyberCom to combatant command status

    The White House announced a long-planned move to elevate Cyber Command to the status of a full combatant command.

  • Photo credit: John Roman Images / Shutterstock.com

    Verizon plans FirstNet rival

    Verizon says it will carve a dedicated network out of its extensive national 4G LTE network for first responders, in competition with FirstNet.

  • AI concept art

    Can AI tools replace feds?

    The Heritage Foundation is recommending that hundreds of thousands of federal jobs be replaced by automation as part of a larger government reorganization strategy.

  • DOD Common Access Cards

    DOD pushes toward CAC replacement

    Defense officials hope the Common Access Card's days are numbered as they continue to test new identity management solutions.

Reader comments

Wed, Oct 31, 2012

If the State Department was in charge of security for the USA, and the Libya incident is any indication, we'd all be speaking arabic now.

Please post your comments here. Comments are moderated, so they may not appear immediately after submitting. We will not post comments that we consider abusive or off-topic.

Please type the letters/numbers you see above

More from 1105 Public Sector Media Group