How can diplomats make use of technology to improve their professional skills and communication? How do computer mediated communications affect diplomatic discourse?
What is the impact of a globalized and interactive media such as the Internet on public diplomacy? These are some of issues that will be discussed on this blog.
The use of technology in the field of diplomatic communication is not a new phenomenon. In fact, diplomats have traditionally been early adopters of new information and communications technologies, from the telegraph to the Internet. The Internet, however, has a greater impact when compared to other media, as it reduces the cost of instantaneous communication to practically zero. Because of this, States are encouraged to make more use of communication strategies – together with the traditional use of political, economical and military resources – to attain their goals in the international arena. Some, like David Rothkopf, even say that 'the realpolitik of the new era is cyberpolitik'.
The use of Internet tools in diplomatic communication takes place with two main purposes. The first one is to improve the exchanges among professionals who work in the international arena. Information is at the heart of diplomatic activity and the Internet increases the speed of its circulation and the urgency of a reply. This poses new challenges for diplomats and requires them to develop new communication skills. On the other hand, adequate use of technology can also offer substantial support to the work of diplomatic offices overseas.
The second main use of the Internet in diplomatic communication is generally called public diplomacy. It is intended to explain the goals of a given foreign policy and to gather support, from the national audience and from foreign public opinion. Radio and television are traditional ways of conveying this kind of message, but the importance of the Internet is growing fast. Governments who stay out of the networks take the risk of being ignored in the international debate, especially by the younger generation.
The United States, for instance, seems to be convinced of the importance of the Internet on their public diplomacy strategy. They have launched a new plan, called public diplomacy 2.0. Their aim is to make use of the interactive potential of the Internet to listen and engage on debate with others, as it is believed that this will be the best way to spread democratic values. With controversial degrees of success, they have shifted their outreach campaigns to Facebook, Twitter, and blogs. But does this strategy take into account the cultural differences among the target audiences? This is another challenge e-diplomats will have to face.
We hope that this blog will help to shed some light on the challenging and fast evolving theme of e-diplomacy. We welcome your insights, comments and suggestions and we would like to invite you to join this new community of people interested in the implications of the Internet on diplomacy, policy and participation.