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Digital diplomacy

You landed on the story of digital diplomacy. Welcome!

This story is based on the research and teaching I have done about the digital transformation of diplomacy. It begins with a 4-minute video on digital diplomacy and then clarifies the terminological confusion regarding digital/cyber/tech diplomacy. It lists 25 terms related to technology and diplomacy. 

You can then see a methodological frame consisting of the impact of digitalization of the geopolitical environment for diplomacy and new digital topics diplomats negotiate and tools they use. Also, you will find links to literature, courses, AI platforms and apps of relevance for digital diplomacy. Enjoy your journey through a digital transformation of diplomacy.

Jovan

Read more on digital diplomacy trends in 2024

 

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How to handle terminological confusion regarding digital (and) diplomacy?

Image of Tetris presentation of digital prefixes

Before you embark on the digital (and) diplomacy journey, make sure you clarify any terminological ambiguities……

Should it be ‘digital’, ‘cyber’, ‘tech’, ‘net’, ‘virtual’, or ‘e-‘ diplomacy?

The use of different adjectives and prefixes to describe the digitalisation of diplomacy tends to create confusion in discussions and policies in this field. This confusion could be reduced by having clearer instructions on what certain terms, such as ‘cyber’, ‘digital’, and ‘tech’ diplomacy cover.

For example, does ‘digital diplomacy’ refer to negotiations about digital policy issues or the use of Twitter and Facebook for public diplomacy?

This Tetris-style animation summarises dilemmas on how to name the digital transformation of diplomacy

You can find more insights on how to reduce the terminological confusion around the digitalisation of diplomacy in our blog post Different prefixes, same meaning: cyber, digital, net, online, virtual, e-.

 

You can read more about technology and diplomacy’s different ‘types’.

 

What are the three fields of digital transformation of diplomacy?

The image displays an interplay between digital technology and diplomacy.

Digital transformation of diplomacy happens in three main areas: 

Changes in the political, social, and economic ENVIRONMENT in which diplomacy is conducted: digital and redistribution of power in international relations, new types of conflicts, digital interdependence and sovereignty, etc. (Read more)

The emergence of new policy TOPICS in diplomatic negotiations: more than 50 digital governance topics including cybersecurity, privacy, data governance, e-commerce, cybercrime, and AI governance. (Read more)

The use of digital TOOLS in the practice of diplomacy: social media, online conferencing, big data and AI analysis, etc. (Read more)

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Digital geopolitics: new ENVIRONMENT for diplomatic activities

Digital dependence makes countries highly vulnerable to any disruption of data flows. Maintaining data flows worldwide is vital to the social stability, economic well-being, and growth of countries. For example, the disruption of e-commerce, e-banking, and platform services such as Airbnb and Uber, could cause great economic disruption.

Global geopolitics depends heavily on access to the main internet cables carrying internet traffic between countries and continents. Presently, more than 90% of all global internet traffic flows through submarine cables which mostly follow the old geographical routes used by telegraph cables in the nineteenth century.

 

Follow the Internet traffic via seabed Internet cables.

Source: TeleGeography

Internet cables are a tangible aspect of data geopolitics. Damage to cables can disconnect an entire country from the internet, which can have profound economic and political consequences. In 2008, the cutting of the main internet cables near Alexandria (Egypt) gave us the first glimpse of the consequences for users and businesses in the Gulf region and India.

Key strategic points, such as the Suez Canal and Melaka (Malaysia), remain as relevant today as they were in the past. For example, most of the data traffic between Asia and Europe goes via Egypt (Alexandria, the Suez Canal). Other critical points include Luzon Island (Philippines) and Hormuz Island (Irania).

The diversity of data traffic routes has increased via terrestrial cables. Terrestrial cables are increasingly supplanting submarine ones. The Digital Silk Road (DSR), part of China’s One Belt – One Road initiative, aims to span Eurasia with fibre-optic cables laid along newly built railroads and energy pipelines.

You can learn more about internet traffic hubs and digital geopolitics in out post ‘The impact of (big) data on geopolitics, negotiations, and the diplomatic modus operandi’.

 

Digital geoeconomics

Digitalisation triggers a new distribution of economic and societal power. For example, Apple’s market capitalisation at the end of 2020 (US$2.23 trillion) was similar to the total 2019 GDP of the entire African continent (US$2.33 trillion), and is close to the GDPs of the UK (US$2.81 trillion), France (US$2.79 trillion), and India (US$2.69 trillion). 

You can compare your country’s GDP with the economic might of tech companies via our Compare Countries to Tech Companies tool

Following tech companies’ increasing economic and social power, many countries have started establishing representation in tech hubs, such as Silicon Valley. For more on this shift towards tech diplomacy, you can consult Diplo’s studies on diplomatic representation in Silicon Valley and Boston.

 

Diplomacy in the tech hubs 

New digital policy centres have emerged around the fast-growing tech industry. In the USA, digital economic dynamism is based in the San Francisco Bay Area which hosts most leading tech companies. As the Diplo study The rise of TechPlomacy in the Bay Area shows, more than 50 countries have been developing their representation in the Bay Area either via traditional consulates in San Francisco or via new types of representation such as the Swissnex hub. While the presence in the Bay Area is important for understanding what is coming next and attracting investment, tech companies, on the other hand, station most of their governance units in Washington DC or Boston, highlighting the growing interdependence between governments and Big Tech.

Note: For additional information, read Diplo’s research paper Science & Diplomacy: How Countries Interact with the Boston Innovation Ecosystem.

In China, most of the digital dynamism is happening in the Shenzhen area, while Beijing acts as the regulatory and policy centre for digital issues.

 

A new digital TOPIC on the diplomatic agenda & Digital foreign policy

Diplomats have to deal with a new set of digital policy issues when promoting the interests of their countries. In many countries, digital foreign policy is emerging, as analysed on our dedicated Digital Foreign Policy page. Digital foreign policy has to address – according to Diplo’s taxonomy – more than 50 digital policy issues organised in 7 baskets: Technology, Security, Human rights, Economy, Development, Legal, and Sociocultural. 

Most of these issues are addressed in the context of the internet and digital governance. Anyone navigating this field should be aware of potential terminological confusion. 

In our illustration on digital governance below, you can find a mapping of digital policy issues where each basket is presented as one subway line, while the issues are displayed as stops. The map also depicts the various interplays between them.

A map of a journey through digital governance.

As visualised above, Diplo’s digital governance taxonomy has been developed through iterative processes over the last 20 years, relying on inputs from policy processes (such as the World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS) and the Internet Governance Forum (IGF)), and research and teaching activities. Diplo’s taxonomy is a classification of internet governance adopted in the only official classification of digital policy that was prepared by the United Nations Commission on Science and Technology for Development (UN CSTD) in 2014: The Mapping of International Internet Public Policy Issues

You can learn more about internet and digital governance in Diplo’s certified online course, the Introduction to Internet Governance , as well as Dr Jovan Kurbalija’s book An Introduction to Internet Governance (DiploFoundation, 7th edition).

 

Digital policy and the UN

The UN Secretary-General’s Roadmap for Digital Cooperation (June 2020) provides an entry point to digital policy at the United Nations. Specific implementation activities are listed in the summary of the Roadmap.

A cover page of the UN Secretary General's Roadmap for Digital Cooperation.The Roadmap builds on the report of the UN Secretary-General’s High-level Panel on Digital Cooperation (Panel) titled ‘The Age of Digital Interdependence’.Cover page of the Report of the UN Secretary-General's High-level Panel on Digital Cooperation: 'The age of digital interdependence'

The report, published in June 2019, provides five sets of recommendations: 

  • build an inclusive digital economy and society
  • develop human and institutional capacity
  • protect human rights and human agency
  • promote digital trust, security, and stability
  • foster global digital cooperation

One of the key recommendations on digital governance outlines three proposed models for digital governance: co-governance, IGF Plus, and Digital Commons.

You can consult the summary of the Panel’s recommendations and the full report.

A new digital TOOL for diplomacy 

Diplomats use digital tools in their daily work, from negotiations and representation to communication and policy analysis. Although the most focused is the use of social media for public diplomacy (e.g. Twitter diplomacy, Facebook diplomacy), digital tools have a much more substantial impact on other functions of diplomacy, as described below.

 

‘Zoom diplomacy’: Online meetings and e-participation

During the COVID-19 pandemic, diplomacy has shifted online to conferencing platforms such as Zoom. However, online meetings are not as new as one might think. 

The first online participation session in multilateral diplomacy was held by the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) in 1963. Since then, the availability of the internet in conference rooms has made remote participation a reality for more inclusive and open international negotiations. 

Online meetings come with many pros and cons. As the pandemic crisis has shown, they provide business continuity. They also increase inclusion by allowing participation without being physically present, which is often conditioned by travel and other expenses. Among the major cons of online meetings is the lack of physical contact, which is important for building trust and empathy that are essential for dealing with, in particular, controversial and political issues. 

Three circles of hybrid meetings: online meetings, blended meetings, in-situ meetings.

As the illustration shows, in addition to traditional physical and remote meetings, there will be the emergence of ‘hybrid (blended)’ meetings that will combine in situ and online participation. Hybrid meetings will require new techniques for planning and running meetings, as you can see on our ConfTech page.

Read also: Remote is far, far away: Online is inclusive collaboration.

 

Social media for public diplomacy

Currently, the most widely used e-tools by diplomatic services are X (former Twitter), Instagram, and Facebook.

Twitter is used as a tool for public diplomacy in many countries. It remains to be seen if and how the current controversies around Twitter will affect diplomacy. For more information, consult our publication Twitter for Diplomats (2013). 

Other social media tools used in public diplomacy include Facebook, YouTube, FlickR, LinkedIn, Pinterest, and Instagram.

 

The 5 core e-competences

5 core competences of digital diplomats.

 

The specific value of e-tools lies in the set of core skills, i.e., the five core e-competences (5Cs) that diplomats need to harness:

  1. Curate: Listening is the first step. It is done by curating information and knowledge.
  2. Collaborate: While you curate, you gradually start collaborating both within your organisation and with outside communities. You start developing your community by sharing resources, asking questions, etc.
  3. Communicate: It is time to start communicating. This skill represents the ability and knowledge to extend your outreach and visibility.
  4. Create: After curating, collaborating, and communicating, you are much more comfortable with social media. You have a solid following. It is time to focus more on creating your online content.
  5. Critique: By now, you should have gained more social visibility. This also exposes you to more critical comments and discussions. You need to engage in critical discussions and learn how to manage criticism.

In the context of digital diplomacy, these competencies represent the skills and knowledge professionals need to perform optimally in the digital world. Effective social media campaigns are also based on these core skills. Nevertheless, the development of competencies in digital diplomacy requires time. 

On social media, we estimate that a practitioner requires:

  • One day to get acquainted with e-tools for digital diplomacy
  • One month to become a good e-listener and to actively follow the core resources
  • One year to become an active e-diplomat, i.e., to contribute and develop a stable following. 

These timeframes are not fixed, but they do demonstrate the ratio and proportion of time needed for an e-diplomat to acquire and employ core e-competences.

Learn more about these skills by joining Diplo’s E-Diplomacy accredited online course.

 

Geneva Engage

Geneva Engage is an initiative of the Geneva Internet Platform (GIP), supported by the Republic and State of Geneva and DiploFoundation. Through its annual event, Geneva Engage awards the most engaging use of social media and online meetings by international organisations, non-governmental, and non-profit organisations, as well as permanent representations to the United Nations Office in Geneva.

Read also: 2020: The year of online participation.

 

AI and big data for policy analysis

Cover page of the report on Data diplomacy

Data has a lot of potential for diplomacy and evidence-based policymaking, as analysed in the report Data Diplomacy: Updating Diplomacy to the Big Data Era (2018). The report maps the main opportunities of big data and lists their practical applications. Read our executive summary and the full report.

Apply for our online courses on digital (and) diplomacy:

To view the full list of Diplo’s courses and training, visit our Course Catalogue.

 

20+ years of digital diplomacy

Back in 1992, there were two early digital diplomacy developments. At the Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro, civil society activists used emails and mailing lists for the first time to coordinate their positions in lobbying and negotiations. At the same time, in Malta, the first Unit for Computer Applications in Diplomacy was established at the Mediterranean Academy of Diplomatic Studies. The unit later evolved into DiploFoundation, which, over the last 20+ years, has conducted research and trained thousands of diplomats on how computers and the internet impact diplomacy.

A summary of 20+ years of e-diplomacy would include the introduction of email, the use of websites by diplomatic services and international organisations, the arrival of computers in conference rooms (with the introduction of notebooks and Wi-Fi) and, most recently, the intensive use of social media such as blogs, Facebook, and Twitter. The introduction of each new e-tool challenged how things were done traditionally and opened up new opportunities for diplomats and diplomacy.

In 2010, Diplo launched the 2010 E-diplomacy Initiative, consisting of awareness building and launching events in main diplomatic centres, including the International Conference on E-diplomacy (June 2010, Malta). The E-diplomacy Initiative created momentum for courses, research, and community discussions on e-diplomacy. Many issues discussed during the events and the conference (social media, security, openness vs discretion in diplomacy) became quite topical during the public discussions on WikiLeaks and diplomacy.

Digital diplomacy meaning: definitions and diplomatic synonyms

This table lists the main ways to define diplomatic changes brought about by technological advancements.

NATURE OF IMPACT OF TECHNOLOGY Diplomacy and Geopolitics Diplomatic Topics Diplomatic Methods and Tools
TYPES OF DIPLOMACY Technology's impact on supply chains, the global economy, and power distribution that shapes environment in which diplomacy operates. The topics that diplomats debate in international, bilateral and regional forums include cybersecurity, data security, AI (artificial intelligence), and ecommerce. Diplomats use digital tools such as social media. AI, data analysis, and web conferencing.
AI diplomacyYes Yes Yes
Blockchain diplomacyYes
Cable diplomacyYes Yes
Chip diplomacyYes Yes Yes
Crypto diplomacyYes Yes
Cyber diplomacyYes
Data diplomacyYes Yes Yes
Facebook diplomacyYes
ICT diplomacyYes
Instagram diplomacyYes
Internet diplomacyYes
Metaverse diplomacyYes
Online diplomacyYes Yes
Quantum diplomacyYes Yes
Real-time diplomacyYes
Satellite diplomacyYes Yes Yes
Science diplomacyYes Yes Yes
Semiconductor diplomacyYes Yes
Space diplomacyYes Yes
Tech diplomacyYes Yes Yes
Telegraph diplomacyYes Yes Yes
Telephone diplomacyYes Yes Yes
Twitter diplomacyYes
Virtual diplomacyYes
Blog diplomacyYes
WP DataTables

 

Source: Jovan Kurbalija, ‘Digital Diplomacy: Issues, Actors, and Processes’ (forthcoming publication in 2023)

 

What is cyber diplomacy?

Cyber diplomacy refers to using diplomatic methods – negotiations, international law, and confidence building – to deal with cyber threats in international relations.

Sometimes cyber diplomacy is used interchangeably with digital diplomacy. The emerging practice is that the prefix cyber, is used for dealing with cybersecurity issues, while the prefix digital is used for diplomatic coverage of other policy issues such as human rights online, data, e-commerce, and content.

Overall, cyber diplomacy is an important tool for promoting international cooperation and addressing the challenges and opportunities presented by cyberspace.  Cyberdiplomacy includes negotiations on cybercrime and cybersecurity in the UN and regional organisations.

What is tech diplomacy?

Tech diplomacy is the practice of diplomacy engaging with the private tech sector on digital policy and emerging technology issues. Denmark introduced the term tech diplomacy in 2017 when they appointed the first tech ambassador based in the Bay Area with the main task of engaging with the tech sector in the Bay Area and other tech hubs worldwide.

However, tech diplomacy has also been used in some cases to describe the wider impact of digital technologies, including digital geopolitics and negotiations on digital policy issues.

Denmark uses the name TechPlomacy to describe tech diplomacy.

You can read more about tech diplomacy here

Manuals and guidelines

The e-diplomacy series of illustrations – a concept of the Digital Diplomacy team, designed by Diplo’s CreativeLab – highlights the impact of e-diplomacy on various diplomatic functions. The Internet has affected the way we curate information, the tools we use to communicate, the speed at which we communicate, and the formality of communications – among many other aspects. View our gallery for more.

Meet also our e-diplomat, Ana Gabel, an environment diplomat. Ana represents the modern e-diplomat, and uses e-tools for an agile approach to her work at the ministry. Ana comes alive in Diplo’s A Day in the Life of an E-diplomat series, which illustrates how diplomacy can be improved through the use of modern tools and approaches.

Cover page: Comic - Quick Diplomatic ResponseQuick Diplomatic Response

Ana is sent to an urgent emergency team meeting to deal with an oil spill in the region. Fast action and efficient management are necessary to minimise environmental change. Read the story; the illustrations are also available on our gallery.

 

One day in life of e-diplomatKnowledge Management in Action

Ana’s work involves environmental emergencies. In another urgent task, she uses knowledge management in her work at the Ministry. View the illustration on our gallery.

FAQs on Digital Diplomacy

drafted by Jovan Kurbalija and Artificial Intelligence

These FAQs were created using both human and artificial intelligence. Jovan represents humans. He is a pioneer in digital diplomacy, education & research. In 1996, he invented the three-part methodology for digital diplomacy, consisting of:  Digital Geopolitics shaping the environment for diplomacy, Digital Topics on diplomatic agenda and Digital Tools for diplomatic activities.

Following this methodology, he has published dozens of publications and led Diplo’s training on digital diplomacy and diplomacy. The training has involved more than 7000 diplomats and other officials representing 202 territories and countries since 1996.

Artificial intelligence uses machine learning to process thousands of pages on digital diplomacy and distil answers to your question. Jovan (expert), and AI will provide new insights and nurture enhanced intelligence, as you can follow here.

Cyber diplomacy and digital diplomacy can be interchangeable, with cyber diplomacy focusing more on security issues. Digital diplomacy involves implementing digital foreign policy and using tools like social media. Geopolitical changes impact diplomacy, with new topics like cybersecurity and tools such as social media being incorporated.

They can often be interchanged. There are however some patterns emerging in their usage. Cyber diplomacy is used more to refer to diplomatic activities related to cyber security issues. There is more confusion about digital diplomacy being used to implement digital foreign policy (new topics in diplomatic agenda) and the use of new tools in diplomatic practice like social media, websites and online meeting platforms.

It is possible to avoid confusion in the current, transitory phase of terminology settling.

– The evolving geopolitical ENVIRONMENT for diplomacy: impact of digital technology on sovereignty distribution of power, and global interdependence among other issues.

– The emergence of new TOPICS in diplomatic agenda: cybersecurity. internet governance, e-commerce, online human rights, and more than 50 other policy topics.

– Use of new TOOLS in diplomatic practice: social media, AI, big data, online meetings, virtual and augmented reality.

You can read more on terminological confusion and other aspects of digital diplomacy. 

Governments must prepare for the evolving metaverse, focusing on data protection, cybersecurity, digital identity, and digital policy issues. Balancing physical, virtual, and augmented realities is crucial in readiness for the metaverse.

The future of the metaverse is still not clear.

Facebook has the network, financial and technical capabilities to make this happen. The government should be ready to address data protection, cybersecurity, digital identity, and other digital policy issues. These issues need to be addressed in a way that balances “real” reality (physical), virtual realities, and augmented realities.

The text discusses how terms like cyber, digital, e, net, tech, and online are often used interchangeably in diplomacy, emphasizing the importance of understanding their specific nuances in the context of digital geopolitics.

It all comes down to semantics and context usage. These prefixes are frequently used in interchangeable ways. It is crucial to determine if a specific usage of cyber diplomacy/digital diplomacy or even e-diplomacy refers only to digital geopolitics, topics, or tools. You can learn more about different usages of prefixes in digital diplomacy.

The Vienna Convention does not dictate specific forms of diplomatic representation, allowing for various options like online diplomacy. Its legality is acknowledged, and the trend’s future prevalence remains uncertain.

The Vienna convention (1961) on diplomatic relations does not specify how countries will be represented. They are typically represented in another country by an embassy or other types of diplomatic missions. However, there are many other options available such as rowing (nonresident Ambassadors). Online diplomatic representation can be considered legal. It is yet to be seen if this practice will increase in popularity over the next few years.

Science diplomacy is sometimes seen as a part of public diplomacy, focusing on positive country image. Public diplomacy involves transparent communication with foreign publics to promote national interests, influenced by the concept of soft power by Joseph Nye. However, science diplomacy extends beyond public diplomacy and should not be simplified as such, as it often involves public diplomacy elements for many countries, like the US.

Some approaches subsume science diplomacy under public diplomacy. In this sense, science diplomacy is about winning hearts and minds; it is about creating a positive image of one’s country.

For clarity, let us look at a definition of public diplomacy. According to the USC Center on Public Diplomacy (CPD), it is defined as ‘the transparent means by which a sovereign country communicates with publics in other countries aimed at informing and influencing audiences overseas for the purpose of promoting the national interest and advancing its foreign policy goals. […] The concept of soft power coined by international relations scholar Joseph Nye has, for many, become a core concept in public diplomacy studies. Nye defines soft power as “the ability to get what you want through attraction rather than coercion or payments”‘.

From this description and the examples on this page, we can see that science diplomacy is much more than public diplomacy and the one should not be reduced to the other. Having said this, it is important to recognise that for many countries, and in particular the USA, the practice of science diplomacy often has strong elements of public diplomacy.

Science diplomacy is not a new concept, with roots tracing back to the 17th century, encompassing scientific cooperation across borders. The term gained prominence around 2005, though examples predate this. The Royal Society’s foreign secretary position in 1723 exemplifies early science diplomacy efforts. By the late 19th century, states were sending science envoys abroad. Nationalism led to challenges in global cooperation, but science remained a tool for national reputation building. Science attachés were stationed in the 19th century, with increased prominence in the 1950s and 1960s.

Science diplomacy is not a new practice. Yet, the term itself only came into general use relatively recently. While there is not one specific point at which the term emerged in its current use, its prominence in publications and various discourses began around 2005 (Flink and Rüffin, 2019).

Yet, examples of science diplomacy can be identified much earlier. Scholars Flink and Rüffin trace science diplomacy, understood as ‘scientific cooperation across borders’, back to the 17th century and the emergence of ‘modern’ science (Flink and Rüffin, 2019). They argue that communication and collaboration among scientists across borders finds its origin there. For example, in 1723, the British Royal Society created the position of ‘foreign secretary’ of the Royal Society.

This person was ‘to maintain regular correspondence with scientists overseas to ensure that the Society’s Fellows remained up-to-date with the latest ideas and research findings’ (Royal Society, 2010, p. 1). The emergence of modern nation states in the 19th century and rising nationalism, however, challenged cooperation across borders. Some scientific cooperation across borders, for example in the field of astronomy, still flourished during that time. Nationalism also gave new impetus to scientific progress as a means to foster a nation’s reputation 17and thus emphasised competition.

If we focus on science diplomacy as a set of activities and policies pursued by state actors, then the practice of sending representatives abroad to act as ‘science envoys’ or ‘science attachés’ can be traced back to at least the late 19th century (Linkov et al., 2014). In 1898, the USA stationed a science attaché, the zoologist Charles Wardell Stiles, at its Berlin embassy. As part of US diplomacy, science attachés became more prominent in the 1950s and 1960s.

Hybrid meetings allow participants to attend either in person or remotely, ensuring equal opportunities for everyone to engage in discussions.

Hybrid meetings let people join both in person and online, giving everyone a fair chance to talk and take part in the meetings’ discussions.

Three writings of diplomacy detail varying perspectives on the concept: diplomacy in lowercase letters relates to daily conflict resolution and representation; Diplomacy in uppercase signifies the professional realm of negotiations and treaties; DIPLOMACY, all in capital letters, embodies a glamorous, aristocratic facade associated with flags, receptions, and protocol, reminiscent of a historical aristocratic profession.

3 writings of diplomacy illustrate different ways in which diplomacy is perceived today:

diplomacy – written in lower-case letters – reflects our daily experience. At home, at work, and on the street, we deal with conflicts through negotiations, engagement, and ultimately, compromise. In addition, we represent our family, our communities, and our companies. We often speak on behalf of others. This is what diplomacy is about. Most people would not use the term ‘diplomacy’ to describe these activities. Yet, these activities are at the core of diplomacy.

Diplomacy – with a capital ‘D’ – is a profession and a system of representation for states. This is how diplomacy is seen in the news. It is about negotiations and international treaties, among other elements. Traditionally, Diplomacy is performed by diplomats and international officials working in embassies, ministries of foreign affairs, and international organisations. A lot has been written about Diplomacy; and you can read more about it on Diplo’s website.

DIPLOMACY – fully written in upper-case letters – is how diplomacy is often perceived by the general public. This is the diplomacy of flags, receptions, black limousines, and protocol. DIPLOMACY looks glamorous and aristocratic. This perception can be traced back to the history of diplomacy, when it was a profession reserved for aristocrats.

Cybersecurity entails safeguarding information systems from threats through policies, procedures, and technical solutions, protecting against cyberwar, terrorism, and cybercrime.

Cybersecurity is a protection of the Internet and other information systems from malicious threats, misuse and malfunctioning. Cybersecurity covers wide area including protection from cyberwar, terrorist attack and cybercrime, among others. Cybersecurity is implemented through policies, procedures and technical solutions.

Digital diplomacy encompasses the influence of digital technology on diplomatic activities in terms of changing geopolitical and geoconomic landscapes, new items on the diplomatic agenda, and innovative tools for diplomatic endeavors such as social media and big data.

Digital diplomacy refers to the impact of digital technology on diplomacy in three realms:

  • changing digital geopolitical and geoconomic ENVIRONMENT for diplomatic activities (sovereignty, power redistribution, interdependence)
  • emerging digital TOPICS on diplomatic agenda (e.g. cybersecurity, e-commerce, privacy protection, and
  • new TOOLS for diplomatic activites (e.g. social media, big data, AI).

The digital divide refers to social inequalities stemming from varying access to computers and the Internet, evident between developed and developing countries, as well as within different demographics and professions.

Digital divide refers to social inequalities created by the introduction of computers and the Internet into human society. It is manifested in differences in number of computers, access to the Internet and available applications. Digital divide is most commonly used to describe the difference between developed and developing countries in the use of digital technology and the Internet. However, divides exists on various levels, including between young and old, urban and rural, and among different professions. 

Diplomacy is the peaceful conduct of international relations through communication, representation, and negotiation between states and international actors to prevent conflict and achieve shared goals. This regulated process involves effective communication as a vital component to ensure successful diplomatic relations.

In its broadest sense, diplomacy is the conduct of international relations by peaceful means.

More restrictive is this definition: diplomacy is the peaceful conduct of international relations by official agents of states, international organisations, and other international actors.

Even more restrictive is the definition of diplomacy as the conduct of relations between sovereign states by members of their respective foreign services. There are also a wide range of definitions based on functions of diplomacy:

Representation is one of the most important functions of diplomacy. Costas Constantinou blends the concepts of representation and communication in his definition:

“At its basic level, diplomacy is a regulated process of communication between at least two subjects, conducted by their representative agents over a particular object.”

The next set of definitions is focused on communication and the sharing of information. In The International Law of Diplomacy, B.S. Murthy defines diplomacy as,

“the process of transnational communication among the elites in the world arena.” Brian White defines diplomacy, both as “a communication process between international actors that seek through negotiation and dialogue to resolve conflicts” and as “one instrument that international actors use to implement their foreign policy”.

Tran Van Dinh’s most concise explanation of the importance communication has for diplomacy is: 

“Communication is to diplomacy as blood is to the human body. Whenever communication ceases, the body of international politics, the process of diplomacy, is dead, and the result is violent conflict or atrophy.” Constantiou describes diplomacy as “a regulated process of communication” (Constantinou) and James Alan as “the communication system of the international society”.

The third approach focuses on the definition of diplomacy as negotiation. Quincy Wright defines diplomacy as:

“the art of negotiation, in order to achieve the maximum of group objectives with a minimum of costs, within a system of politics in which war is a possibility.”

Hendely Bull defines diplomacy as

“the management of international relations by negotiations.”


Learn more on diplomacy in general, digital diplomacy, science diplomacy, and other types of diplomacy

Join wide range of courses on diplomacy


Online politeness is dwindling as language becomes more divisive and offensive. To maintain e-politeness, use language carefully and avoid sarcasm to prevent causing offense.

Unfortunately, online politeness is declining. Language is divisive and offensive.

It’s possible to regain your e-politeness with careful language usage. Sarcasm should be avoided as it can easily lead to offence.

Internet governance encompasses the collaborative efforts of governments, the private sector, and civil society to establish shared principles, norms, rules, decision-making processes, and programs that influence the development and utilization of the Internet, as outlined by the World Summit on Information Society in 2005.

Internet governance is defined by the World Summit on Information Society (Tunis Agenda, 2005) as “the development and application by Governments, the private sector, and civil society, in their respective roles, of shared principles, norms, rules, decision-making procedures, and programmes that shape the evolution and use of the Internet.”

The use and importance of online diplomacy are decreasing.

Term online diplomacy is loosing its relevance and traction.

E-politeness refers to demonstrating respect and courtesy in online interactions, mirroring proper behavior expected in face-to-face communication.

E-politeness is about online behaviour that reflects respect and courtesy, just as it should be in real life.

Digital diplomacy encompasses more than just social media platforms like Twitter and Facebook, including new technology, agenda-setting, and geopolitical shifts. Despite this broad scope, it is often mistaken for public diplomacy due to the emphasis on these platforms in international relations.

Public diplomacy only covers one aspect of digital diplomacy related to the use of TOOLS for diplomacy including Twitter, Facebook and other social media. Other aspects of digital diplomacy include new TOPICS on diplomatic agenda and changing geopolitical or geo-economic ENVIRONMENT.

However, digital diplomacy may sometimes be seen as just public diplomacy because of high media visibility of the use of Twitter and Facebook in international politics.

Science and technology are the pillars of modern society. While science involves knowledge and research, often not focused on solving practical issues, technology is the application of scientific principles. However, the lines between them are increasingly blurred, as they are interconnected and often complement each other. This distinction has become less clear in recent years.

Science and technology are both considered the foundations of modern society. These terms are often used in modern parlance. The fundamental difference between science and technology is that it can be viewed as “disinterested knowledge and research” but not necessarily aimed at solving a practical problems. Technology is commonly referred to in this way as “applied science”.

But, it’s difficult to discern such clear distinctions in practice. Technology and science are often interconnected. It is not easy to tell the difference between scientific discoveries in mathematics, and the development of computers. Science and technology have been complementing one another. This distinction has become more blurred in the last ten years.

Agenda setting in diplomacy is crucial for placing important issues on global diplomatic agendas. Just like in media, there is a competition for attention in diplomacy. States aim to advance their interests by influencing international organizations to include their agenda items. With various unresolved matters regarding Internet governance, different actors are strategically maneuvering to ensure their issues are prioritized on the emerging Internet diplomatic agendas.

In the complex interplay of multiple issues and actors in diplomacy, the key challenge is to place certain issues on global diplomatic agendas. Similarly to the media in general and the world of the Internet, a fight for attention takes place, in this case diplomatic attention. Kehone and Nye suggest that states “struggle to get issues raised in international organisations that will maximise their advantage by broadening or narrowing the agenda.”

Currently, there are many unresolved issues related to Internet governance. As a result, extensive manoeuvring by different actors trying to place their own issues on emerging Internet diplomatic agendas is taking place. 

Science attachés played a crucial role in addressing COVID-19, providing support in crisis response, repatriation efforts, medical technology advice, and information collection. However, they mainly focused on national efforts and faced challenges in collaborating internationally. The experience has led to suggestions for improving science attachés’ work. More details can be found in the article “Science Attachés in a Post-COVID-19 World: Taking Stock of the Crisis from Science Diplomacy”.

Science attachés played an important role in the response to COVID-19. In the cases of France and the UK, the science attaché network was particularly important as part of the initial crisis response. This included supporting repatriation efforts and giving advice in the area of medical technologies to colleagues from other fields, such as trade. Later, science attachés were important in collecting information on initiatives and publications in their geographic region.

It is interesting to observe, though, that they mainly supported national efforts while Unsurprisingly, science attachés played an important role in the response to COVID-19. In the cases of France and the UK, the science attaché network was particularly important as part of the initial crisis response. This included supporting repatriation efforts and giving advice in the area of medical technologies to colleagues from other fields, such as trade.

Later, science attachés were important in collecting information on initiatives and publications in their geographic region. It is interesting to observe, though, that they mainly supported national efforts while struggling to maintain contact and collaborate with colleagues from other countries.

Based on this experience, a number of suggestions have been made on how to improve the work of science attachés. You can read more in the article Science Attachés in a Post-COVID-19 World: Taking Stock of the Crisis from Science & Diplomacy.

The concept of diplomacy dates back to ancient civilizations, evolving over time to become a structured practice involving negotiation and communication between nations. Diplomacy has been utilized for centuries to manage international relations, facilitate agreements, prevent conflicts, and promote cooperation among countries. Its origins can be traced to ancient Greek and Roman times, where envoys were tasked with conducting diplomatic missions and resolving disputes peacefully. Over the centuries, the practice of diplomacy has continued to develop and adapt to the changing global landscape, playing a crucial role in international affairs to this day.

This triptych illustration describes the first diplomatic 'encounter'

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Resources

German Strategy for International Digital Policy

The German government's Strategy for International Digital Policy outlines their commitment to safeguarding democracy and freedom online, promoting human rights, advocating for a global, open, free, and secure internet, enhancing technology partnerships, supporting cro... Read more...

2023

Conclusion of tech diplomacy study

Tech diplomacy study concludes that countries are actively engaging in structured tech diplomacy practices, focusing on internet governance. The Bay Area shows signs of multilateral cooperation, but uniform terminology and global impact discussions are lacking. The pan... Read more...

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2023

Other hubs of tech diplomacy

Many countries are establishing tech diplomacy hubs beyond the Bay Area, including cities like Houston, Chicago, Boston, and New York. Globally, places like Bengaluru in India, Barcelona in Spain, Beijing in China, and Geneva in Switzerland are also emerging as signifi... Read more...

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Formal and informal tech diplomacy networking

In the Bay Area, formal and informal tech diplomacy networking opportunities exist, including events like the Cyber and Tech Retreat, the Freedom Online Coalition, the Silicon Valley Working Group, the Tech Diplomacy Playground Initiative, and the newly launched Techno... Read more...

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2023

Tech diplomacy interactions in the San Francisco Bay Area

Tech diplomacy interactions in the San Francisco Bay Area involve a variety of tech companies and diplomats focusing on crucial discussions regarding values, policy, compliance, and technology globally. The region hosts a significant number of European tech diplomacy o... Read more...

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2023

USA tech diplomacy and the San Francisco Bay Area

Since 2017, the environment of engagement in tech diplomacy in the Bay Area has changed considerably, as the USA has introduced new digital and cyber diplomacy strategies and has implemented administrative structures to pursue them. ... Read more...

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2023

Tech diplomacy in digital foreign policy

Countries are increasingly implementing digital elements in their policies, defining national digital and digitalisation policies, and in some cases, have created dedicated digital foreign policies. In order to implement them, they create dedicated posts: from the firs... Read more...

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2023

About tech diplomacy

There is still no established definition of the term ‘tech diplomacy’, neither academically nor in practice. Several other related types of diplomacy are widely used and are seemingly competing or overlapping with the term. These include ‘e-diplomacy’, ‘cyber... Read more...

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Internet and social media: A focus on diplomacy

Diplomacy has adapted to technological advancements through history, including the internet and social media. Digital diplomacy focuses on utilizing these tools to achieve diplomatic goals, influence global policy, and adapt to new topics like cybersecurity. The intern... Read more...

The telegraph: How it changed diplomacy

The telegraph had a profound impact on diplomacy, revolutionizing communication and altering the nature of international relations. It facilitated faster exchanges and influenced how diplomacy was conducted, shifting the power dynamics and organizational structures of ... Read more...