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.