petecranston   06 Nov 2012   E-Diplomacy

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Anyone who's ever surfed knows the moment when a wave crests, gathering strength and speed (and of course I was always buried many more times than I felt the adrenaline of a clean ride). It's interesting to ponder who is riding and who is being buried by the e-diplomacy wave. Karen Melchior strikes me as a star surfer: we intereviewed Karen in the summer about her e-diplomacy activties and she brings us up to date in a new piece for the rich Canadian CIC e-diplomacy hub. And the Italian Foreign Ministry continues its ride, organising a fascinating Twiplomacy day in Washington. Meanwhile, @FergusHanson continues his campaign for e- Australia, backed now by the Australian Parliament. As one of the iconic surfing nations will DFAT snap cleanly or bomb? 

And while e-diplomacy pushes states to more openness and engagement, the same states often take very different views on cybersecurity. There is alarm about the Russian Governments new Internet Surveillance plan, for example, and an disturbing instance from Pakistan of how heavy-handed Government controls can impact ordinary life. And it's always interesting to watch the contortions of States as they claim rights over their citizens which they decry as corrupt elsewhere. While there was undoubtedly a case that a hacker with Asperger's Syndrome shouldn't be treated as a criminal, the decision by the UK Home Secretary to deny a US extradition order seems nonetheless an extraordinary precedent - and, as a lovely comment in the Wired report put it, "classic British diplomacy: avoid a fight over principles but get what you want all the same"   

Talking of hackers, Ethiopian kids in a remote village with no experience at all of computers, nor any knowledge of English, hacked their way into the Android operating system which runs the new One Laptop Per Child (OLPC) models. Leaving aside derisory comments about Android being an open door anyway, it's a remarkable illustration of the potential of young people before they go to school.  I ran the Glastonbury festival's first solar powered cyber cafe for several years using OLPC (never try to raise money at a rock festival!) and it was astounding to watch kids coming in and making it work within minutes for their bemused adults. Examples abound of alternative ways to engage and educate, like virtual communities addressing global problems or the £25 Raspberry Pi, a tiny programmable digital board that is taking the UK by storm.

But just in case you thought the world was standing still while we work out how to address the challenges of Being Digital (the OLPC's founder Negroponte was always prescient), spend some time working through this excellent article on how Google works, and how rapidly it's changing. 

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