60. Information technology in diplomacy

10 May

Information technology in diplomacy

1. Technological advances have in recent times have led to dramatic changes in communication in the area of international relations. Clearly, current diplomacy is now re-sized to allow for the application of essential and effective tools, such as those provided by the information technology.

2. The exercise of “conventional” diplomacy through electronic means is called “digital diplomacy” (or “e-diplomacy”). The UK and the USA are leaders in this field; the former has a “Digital Diplomacy Department” in its Foreign Office while the latter has an “e-Diplomacy Office” in the State Department.

3. Digital diplomacy must be understood and embraced as a tool of communication and information relevant to the foreign service. However, it has to be regularly and comprehensively updated in tune with new technologies and also with the needs of the foreign service itself.

4. Exchanges of information between the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and diplomatic missions are normally conducted increasingly by email. However, email communication has issues that require special privacy and can also be easily breached by unauthorised persons.

5. The electronic media significantly affect not only the presentations themselves, but also in the way information is archived, allowing quick and efficient classification and also facilitating rapid and consistent access. Above all, these media today are essential to the effectiveness of monitoring and rapid reporting.

6. This electronic form of communication and also the information provided through it has its own risks. Therefore it is essential to implement a security system for the purpose of having the effective confidentiality in the information provided or required and also to ensure that it could be stored securely.

7. It is worthy to note that the violation of the confidentiality of the electronic information can lead to criminalisation since it is regarded as a breach of national or international law or both.

8. As part of the implementation and development of electronic media, the foreign ministries (as well as embassies and consulates) have established modern internet portals (websites) that maintain a constant flow of up-to-date information targeted to their own officials and foreign nationals, and to promote trade and tourism, among others.

9. “Intranet” systems (particular link between computers) allow, among other benefits, a comprehensive and effective communication between the Foreign Ministry and diplomatic missions in their country. Such initiatives are often framed in the “e-government projects” and the modernisation programmes of the foreign ministries.

10. “Instant media” have a significant role in this area, especially the “chats” and social media networks like Facebook, Skype and Twitter, which are used both by the foreign ministries to disseminate and receive data. Through these means, “virtual” communication can coordinate activities that once could only be made by physical time-consuming means.

11. Despite the persuasive impact of new media, they cannot be expected to replace private negotiations and personal exchanges. It is impossible to conclude agreements on a large scale through electronic chat rooms or in video conferences. Nevertheless, such agreements would be unsustainable without the aid, understanding and support of a changed world interconnected and empowered by information technology.

Editor’s Note: Credits to Amb. Manuel Morales Lama

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