Trade and Globalisation


Digital Diplomacy as Global Challenge

04 May 2017 - 14:54

As recent accusations of Russian interference in western election campaigns show, the politics behind digital technology needs to be articulated. In the debate on the impact of the digital age on diplomacy, we argue in the journal Global Policy that it is urgent for diplomats to understand the new digital condition.

Existing, ‘analogue’ diplomacy is not merely superimposed onto technologies, which are shaping an environment that is facilitating digitally native practices. Some governments are only just coming to grips with all this.

Western perspectives dominate writings on digital diplomacy and there is scope for importing new notions into these discussions. Insights from new media theory harmonize surprisingly well with South Korea’s practices. Technological development and innovation impact directly on the sphere of foreign policy in this country. For South Korea, ‘becoming technological’ has turned into an important export asset.

Our article in Global Policy gives recommendations for diplomatic practitioners across the world, particularly those who still look at new technologies, including social media, as mere open and freely available ‘services’.

Five policy implications for governments worldwide:

1.   As diplomacy is increasingly enacted in a digital environment, diplomats should be critical of real-life actors behind software, of their intentions and how they pursue their aims, and with what effect.

2.   Diplomats should realize that digital diplomacy constitutes engagement with how culture, information and relations are systematized in software, such as with the counteracting of algorithms that do not work in one’s favour.

3.   Foreign ministries (MFAs) should embrace conceptions of technology that no longer separate substance from technique.

4.   MFAs that have the capability to create software for diplomatic purposes but do not yet do so are at a disadvantage in comparison with more astute authoritarian powers and tech-savvy non-governmental actors.

5.   Digital technologies can be used to operationalize political and diplomatic interests. MFAs should explore all this and put it into practice to improve policy-making.

For the next 5 days this is an open link.