What's e-diplomacy? How can web tools help diplomats in their every day activities? What are the most recent developments in this field? And, at the end of the day, why should diplomats care about that. These are the main questions addressed at the first e-diplomacy launch event organised by Diplo Foundation and held at the Permanent Representation of Malta to the European Union.
The Brussels Launch was addressed by the partners of E-diplomacy Initiative: Ambassador Richard Cachia Caruana, Permanent Representative of Malta to the European Union, Mr. Paul Garnier, Deputy Head of the Swiss Mission to NATO and Ms. Marylin Cade, Representative of AT&T.
Stefano Baldi, First Counsellor at the Italian Representation to the EU, addressed the 60 participants to the session focussing his intervention on 'why' diplomats should be aware of the possibilities that internet offers them nowadays. The internet is changing faster, and every day new applications are released; there is quite a buzz around the so called web2.0, and we have at our hand a lot of possibilities and choices. However, it's not about the tools: it's about the way these tools can improve diplomats' working practices, so that "we don't work harder, we just work smarter!"
Every diplomat, in his daily work, has to perform a set of tasks and activities such as negotiate, communicate, manage information, organise events, travel; each of these entails also managing people and resources. However, while duties are adding up, the amount of time available to perform them is always the same, and financial resources at disposal are often decreasing. So what can be used to do more in the same amount of time?
While diplomats normally use word processors, email and excel, there are several new, web2.0 tools that can enable to effectively share, work together and collaborate.
For Mr. Baldi, there are 8 core applications that diplomats could effectively adopt in their daily practices. These are: wikis, Skype, Google desktop, social bookmarking, feed readers like Netvibes, Doodle, mind mapping tools, and PDF printer.
While most of these seemed to be pretty new words for the participants of the session, for Diplo's Director Jovan Kurbalija the e-tools "should become the bread and butter for diplomats" as they allow to share experiences and knowledge in a cheap, easy and fast way, thus facilitating collaboration. Most of e-tools are entering the diplomatic world from "the backdoor" (use of word processors for negotiating texts, e-mail exchanges). The E-diplomacy initiative recognises this changing reality and provide space for exchanging ideas how e-tools can be used more effectively.
However, diplomacy is not e-diplomacy yet and this, according to Mr. Baldi, is a matter of organisation and procedures, rather than a technological issue. Indeed, the main challenge to translate traditional diplomatic activities into the digital world is also about changing a deeply rooted working mindset and not only providing diplomats with an adequate preparation on e-tools.
See also some video 'blips' with speakers and participants in the event.