The recent surge of interest in Digital Diplomacy  - perhaps eDiplomacy's younger-looking cousin  - is the latest wave in the adoption and integration of computing and Internet enabled applications. While more and more MFAs and Governments are engaging actively online for good reasons, and with increasing confidence and success, there is the unmistakeable whiff of hype about some of the activity. There are also voices questioning the Return on Investment from deeper e-engagement. For example, in a fascinating piece about eDiplomacy in Indonesia, Dr Shannon Smith questions just how many people Facebook and Twitter pages connect to in a given population and whether they represent a significant influencing group:

"US e-diplomacy needs to be put into perspective. There are 55 million internet users in Indonesia, which means that less than 1% of those are currently reached by the US Embassy. With a total population of 245 million, the US Embassy reaches only 0.21% of all Indonesians via social media..... [and]... Spiderman is five times more popular [on Facebook]'"

Then the recent furore over the fight back on Twitter by the Chinese and Russian governments to US eDiplomacy targetting their populations suggests that, at best, any first-mover advantage enjoyed by those MFAs who have been quick off the mark has now been lost. At worst it may mean that in terms of Public Diplomacy, using Twitter is revealed as the equivalent of standing in London's Hyde Park corner shouting at your friends and passing tourists.     

The Gartner Technology Hype Cycle reports are popular and influential. The format lends itself to reflecting about what might be real and what overblown in the current eDiplomacy/digital Diplomacy wave. Here are some first suggestions culled from a few of the Diplo team. We comment on both digital tools that lend themselves to eDiplomacy and Diplomatic functions that can exploit those tools

 

What do you think? Have we left out some key tools or functions? Are we unkind or too timid? Please comment below, or send us your own versions.

Comments

Liz Galvez's picture
Liz Galvez
There's no doubt that social media may not appropriate for all audiences. I came across this article about a tiny radio station in Afghanistan "where radio is equivalent to'new media" though the article doesn't say what the audience outreach is. Dr Shannon-Smith is right to draw attention to other, more traditional means of public diplomacy. But to me her post smacks of defensiveness. I wonder whether her indignation is aimed not just at Fergus Hanson but at other past critics of Australian public diplomacy such as the Australian Senate Foreign Affairs Committee which issued a detailed report some five years ago including recommendations to make more use of inexpensive social media tools. (The links to the report and the Government's response don't seem to work but the Lowy Institute has a brief summary here http://www.lowyinterpreter.org/post/2009/08/26/Public-diplomacy-adrift.aspx . On the other hand, her message might simply be: Give us the resources that the US spends on public diplomacy and we'd be able to make a much bigger splash in the global pool.
Halil Ibrahim Izgi (not verified)
If we talk about digital diplomacy, firstly we have to set our goals about them. Briefly we categorize it as daily and long term digital efforts. First question: Why are we here? Every country has different priorities. For example, Sweden wants to increase “Brand Sweden”, USA wants to remove “enemy” perception and Turkey, my homecountry, wants to promote their “soft power”. The tools may be different for each country. I think that social media (Facebook and Twitter especially) is important but it’s as hard as writing on ice. On the other hand, Wikipedia articles, blogs and websites are fundamental to digital diplomacy. Nowadays Wikipedia is battleground for digital information wars (cyberwars). If we want to set digital agendas one can deploy several social media tools. Facebook won’t be one and only or the dominant solution: How about vKontakte in Russia or Twitter in Turkey? Local choices will draw roadmap for digital diplomacy.
Alex Schillemore (not verified)
As with all good comms, digital diplomacy comes down to a couple of key points: what are you trying to achieve and who are your target audience? Digital Diplomacy is not going to change the world on its own. But it does provide an opportunity that has never presented itself before, engaging with people (whether they be the public, key opinion formers or even other diplomats) regularly, quickly and on a one to one basis. For me, it is more important to have 100 of the right followers than to have 50,000 random followers on social media. Choosing the right audience, and therefore tool for the job, is key.

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