lighting, Diplomacy

Tech Diplomacy Event – How Governments Engage with the Tech Sector

22 June 2023

Washington D.C., The USA

Event summary

Diplomats, technologists, and academics gathered at the Swiss Embassy in Washington, D.C., to discuss the current practice of TechDiplomacy, understood as an interplay between tech companies and national governments. The basis for discussion was the DiploFoundation’s report, ‘Tech Diplomacy Practice in the San Francisco Bay Area'. 

Following opening remarks by Swiss ambassador Jacques Pitteloud, the panel engaged in dynamic discussion:

  • Jovan Kurbalija, Executive Director, DiploFoundation, Head of the Geneva Internet Platform (GIP)
  • André Campos Ferreira Makarenko, First Secretary Science, Technology and Innovation Section Embassy of Brazil in Washington
  • Monica Ruiz, Senior Government Affairs Manager, Digital Diplomacy, Microsoft
  • Laura Walker McDonald, ICRC Senior Advisor, Digital Technology & Data Protection
  • Patricia Gruver, co-founder of the Tech Diplomacy Network

The debate centred around a few critical issues:

Participation of small and developing countries in tech diplomacy 

Diplo’s study indicated that African countries and small island states do not have representation in the Bay Area and other hubs of tech diplomacy. There is an urgency to find innovative ways to engage small and developing countries in exchange with the tech sector.

Lost in translation between tech and diplomacy

Diplomats and technologists have different professional cultures in terms of framing problems and finding solutions. They also use different professional languages. Thus, one of the main challenges in tech diplomacy is reducing lost in translation. It could be done through training, coaching, and immersion.

Diplomatic capacities of tech companies

Only a few companies have the capacity to engage in sustained diplomacy. Microsoft is probably the most advanced in this field. Many companies face the dilemma of whether digital diplomacy should be part of compliance (regulations) or public affairs. 

Speed of tech diplomacy

The main challenge is synchronising the fast speed of technological changes and much slower governmental reaction. Tech diplomacy is often a bridge between these two dynamics. 


The panel is part of a broader effort of DiploFoundation to connect digital diplomacy dynamics in the major digital hubs worldwide. 


Event description

The practice of digital and tech diplomacy is on the rise. Tech diplomacy requires countries and tech companies to adopt new approaches to current digital policy issues. As a new form of diplomatic representation and an emerging issue on the diplomatic agenda, new venues and actors need to be engaged. To this end, Diplo has published the report Tech Diplomacy Practice in the San Francisco Bay Area which examines specific exchanges between diplomatic representations and tech companies, and maps the existing benefits and challenges.

This event aims to broaden the discussion on the practice of tech diplomacy and its place in global digital policy processes, such as the UN Global Digital Compact. We will compare national approaches, and discuss the practice from a development and human rights perspective.

The presentation of the report starts at 18:00 (local time in Washington, D.C.) and will be followed by a panel discussion with a Q&A session. We will welcome a variety of stakeholders to represent a wide range of perspectives and allow for a lively exchange throughout the event.

This event is organised by the Embassy of Switzerland in the USA in partnership with Diplo. The event will be held in situ only, and attendance is by invitation.