What Technology and Digital Diplomacy Look Like in 2019
By Matt Brennan
Diplomacy has traditionally been defined as direct communication between one government and another. Public diplomacy came into being with the advent of the radio, and Nazi Germany using this technology to speak to the populations of neighboring countries. Governments have used technology to take their message to the world (and the foreign public) since that point.
Technology always plays a role in diplomatic capabilities. The telephone, television, and now computers have all played their role in how governments conduct their business both internally and externally with other governments.
While digital diplomacy, or Twitter Diplomacy, may seem like a new phenomenon, both go back further than the current administration. The U.S. State Department created a task force on eDiplomacy (the same idea) in 2002. Since then, Britain, Canada, and other foreign powers have taken up their own eDiplomacy policies and initiatives.
In 2012, a global communications firm discovered there were 264 Twitter accounts for heads of state and other institutions across 125 countries. That number will only likely continue to rise as the platforms further engrain themselves into everyday life.
The Tools of Digital Diplomacy
With an expected 5.7 billion smart phone users in 2020, digital diplomacy makes communication with the whole world instantaneous. That includes foreign leaders and the foreign public as well.
Social media platforms such as Facebook and Twitter also have a nearly universal familiarity. Those who don’t use the platforms will likely become aware of any governmental or political messages through nearly instant news media coverage.
Examples of Positive Digital Diplomacy in Action
There have been several examples of digital diplomacy being used for good over the last few years as well. For instance, in May 2018 French President Emmanuel Macron hosted the Tech for Good summit, with 60-plus technology leaders, to talk about how it can be used for the common good within issues like education, labor, and diversity.
Representatives from Facebook, Microsoft, IBM, Uber, Salesforce, Stripe and other major tech firms participated in the conversation.
The UN also recently released a report that collaborative efforts to force major terrorist networks off of popular social media channels have been largely successful. While groups such as ISIS may not be as prevalent on Facebook or Twitter as they once were, the report does state that they are using smaller, less monitored sites to share materials. But this trend is a step in the right direction.
Canada’s G7 Summit last year used Snapchat to expose younger audiences to the event. They used a social media platform that is primarily youth based in membership to open up the conversation to younger audiences in a way that otherwise may not have been possible.
As time progresses, diplomacy and digital diplomacy may become redundant terms. Technology and social media allow corporate messages to permeate large International audiences and it only makes sense that government would take advantage of these tools for the same purpose.
We’re moving into an era where access to mobile, online communication is nearly universal. World leaders have the ability to use this new connectedness to connect with the general public in a positive way.