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Webinar digest – Essential e-tools for diplomats

Published on 15 April 2013
Updated on 05 April 2024

Although thousands of applications are available for PCs and/or mobile devices, diplomats (like most other people) tend to use only a very limited number of them (8–10).

Consider the Apple App Store and the number of applications available. In just a few years, the total number of apps has gone from approximately 50 000 (2009) to 775 000 (January 2013) (300 000 native to iPad – source About.com). The same trend applies to Android applications.

Webinar digest – Essential e-tools for diplomatsAt Diplo’s webinar Essential e-tools for diplomats, on 12 April 2013, Stefano Baldi demonstrated a few examples of what could be defined as ‘essential e-tools’: simple to use and effective for daily diplomatic activities.

Read about it, or watch the recorded webinar below:


The default tool for ordinary and simple searches is the Internet; in particular the different search engines available (such as Google).

Since searches often concern people (biographies) or issues, you will almost always find a reference contained in Wikipedia among the first results obtained using search engines.

Wikipedia is the biggest multilingual free content encyclopedia in the world. It has been written collaboratively by volunteers worldwide. Anyone with access to the Internet can create an account and write or make changes to Wikipedia articles. One of the best-known examples of the use of the Wiki concept in Diplomatic activities is Diplopedia, realised by the US Department of State.

Wikipedia is available in several languages; the sites have different content and the number of articles varies. The most comprehensive one is the English version with more than three million articles. For information on people you should also look in the most appropriate national version, in addition to the English version. The main critical aspect underlying is the presumed ‘anarchy’ of the Encyclopedia.

Information on Wikipedia should be treated in the same critical way you would approach any other source: it is therefore important to verify claims made and to assess any potential bias.

Wikipedia is available in many languages. The English version (the biggest one) is available at: https://en.wikipedia.org. The International homepage in available at: https://www.wikipedia.org

For a quick and effective video on what is Wiki: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-dnL00TdmLY


Diplomats are confronted every day with a vast amount of information to consult. Most of this information is available and consulted online. 

Diplomats have more information at their disposal now than they have ever had, but this doesn’t mean that they know the optimal way (if there is one) of accessing that information efficiently. In particular it is very important to be timely and to be able to follow the latest developments of events. Therefore it is important to use a tool that allows for rapid detection and consultation of new information added in predefined sites.

Netvibes is basically an aggregator; it is a tool that reads the news feeds from your favourite websites and shows them simultaneously in one single place (in this case a webpage). There are many different software tools and services that can do this, but Netvibes is one of the most effective, if we consider diplomats’ needs.

In the past to keep track of updates on a website with news (or in blogs) you had to ‘bookmark’ websites in your browser and manually return to them on a regular basis to see what had been added. Through the so-called RSS technology, it is now possible to keep track of updates in a much easier and quicker way.

Webinar digest – Essential e-tools for diplomatsThis is the icon used for RSS services

In order to use Netvibes and create your own reference page, you have to sign up. The process is simple and fast. The service is free. Once you have a username and password, you can access your page (sign in) and start choosing which services (e.g. RSS) you want to include in your page. To do so you should use the ‘add content’ button in the upper left-hand corner of the page.

A simple step-by-step tutorial to set up Netvibes is available here

Netvibes can be set up for free at the site: https://www.netvibes.com

Delicious (Social Bookmarking)


Once you have located useful information on the Internet, you will probably want to note the address (URL) of the information for future access.

One simple way to do this is with bookmarking. Yet  diplomats often work on many different PCs (Office PC, Home PC, Laptop, etc…) and therefore have different bookmarks on every computer. These bookmarks are generally (or should be) a very select list of websites which are essential for the user’s daily work.


Delicious is an online service that allows registered users to tag, save, manage, and share bookmarks to relevant websites. Using Delicious, a service which stores the bookmarks on a shared server, it is easy to have a single set of bookmarks synchronised between all of your computers. Even if you do not use your PC, you can access your bookmarks on the Delicious website.  You can also easily share your bookmarks and exchange suggestions with your colleagues.


In order to use Delicious, a free service, you just need to register. The bookmarks saved can be tagged for easy classification and retrieval. By adding a number of different tags to the same bookmark, you can include that bookmark in several collections of topics with one click. For instance, a page tagged with UN, Protocol, Treaty, and Internet will show up in your collection for each of these four topics, even though the other resources in these collections may be completely different.


Delicious can be set up for free at the site:

PDF (Printer)

It is often necessary to create and/or exchange files containing documents that cannot be modified and look exactly like the original; a kind of digital photocopy.  PDF formatting ensures this possibility.

A PDF printer works as a Microsoft Windows printer and allows you to write PDF documents from virtually any Microsoft Windows application.

The PDF format can be obtained directly from the original file if you have a PDF generator on your PC. When this programme is installed it functions (and looks like a printer). To generate a PDF file, it is sufficient to print it using the PDF printer driver.

There are many PDF printers available. There is commercial software and free software. Bullzip is a Free PDF printer that can be downloaded at: https://www.bullzip.com

Other Tools

Invitations to events
The diplomatic world is also characterised by many official events (lunches, dinners, cocktails, galas, Celebrations of National Days, etc.).

In many cases the invitations for these events need to be formal and therefore traditional means (invitation card sent by mail or delivered by hand) are used.
There are other occasions (such as cultural events or other less formal events) when many people are invited, where some interactive services can be useful to launch and track the whole invitation process. One good example is the free service ‘evite’, available at https://www.evite.com

Keeping track of information
Google Alerts provides e-mail updates of the latest relevant Google results (web, news, etc.) based on your choice of query or topic. Google Alerts allow you to monitor specific news or stories or to get the latest on a person or an event. You can freely subscribe by providing your e-mail address and indicating the term (or terms) that you want to be monitored by the system. Every time that Google alert detects a new page with one of the terms that have been indicated (e.g. the name of your Minister or the name of your dossier) it will automatically send you an e-mail with the address of the page. The more specific the term is, the fewer ’false positive’ indications you will receive. 

Google Alerts –  https://www.google.com/alerts

Collaborating on the same document
Google Docs (recently changed to Google Drive): Diplomats, in particular in multilateral diplomacy, need to work on common documents. The technique of tracking changes is often used to simplify negotiations and highlight amendments participants are making to the original texts. Google documents offers the possibility for several people to work on the same text which is available online; it shows the different contributions (or comments). The main advantage, in comparison with the traditional Word document with track changes, is that everybody is working at the same time on the same document which already includes the amendments proposed by others.

The service is freely accessible at https://drive.google.com


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