The Cable

Report: State Dept. has more than 150 people working on ediplomacy

The State Department now has more than 150 employees working full time on "ediplomacy," the use of the Internet to achieve policy goals, as well as at least 900 part-time ediplomats, according to a new study. "The US State Department has become the world’s leading user of ediplomacy," states the new report put out by ...

The State Department now has more than 150 employees working full time on "ediplomacy," the use of the Internet to achieve policy goals, as well as at least 900 part-time ediplomats, according to a new study.

"The US State Department has become the world’s leading user of ediplomacy," states the new report put out by Australia’s Lowy Institute for International Policy, highlighting a range of initiatives that Foggy Bottom has included in its "21st Century Statecraft" Initiative.

"In some areas ediplomacy is changing the way State does business. In Public Diplomacy, State now operates what is effectively a global media empire, reaching a larger direct audience than the paid circulation of the ten largest US dailies and employing an army of diplomat-journalists to feed its 600-plus platforms," the report, entitled "Revolution @State: The Spread of Ediplomacy," states. "In other areas, like Knowledge Management, ediplomacy is finding solutions to problems that have plagued foreign ministries for centuries."

In addition to public diplomacy and knowledge management, new technology is being used by the State Department around the world for information management, consular communications, disaster response, the promotion of internet freedom, and even policy planning.

For example, the U.S. Embassy in Mexico, the Mexican Embassy in Washington, the Mexican Affairs Office at State, and the Mexican Foreign Ministry all collaborate on disaster management using cloud-based tools, a mechanism that has been used in the cross-border region. In another example, the Haitian-American population was mobilized to help translate Twitter messages during the Haitian earthquake.

Not all experts are thrilled about the State Department’s ediplomacy. Evgeny Morozov wrote in a recent edition of FP that the State Department’s internet freedom efforts and other technological gambits have not produced significant results.

"A year later, however, the Internet Freedom Agenda can boast of precious few real accomplishments; if anything… Clinton’s effort has certainly generated plenty of positive headlines and gimmicky online competitions, but not much else," he wrote. "Elsewhere, the State Department’s enthusiasm for technology has surpassed its understanding of it."

The Lowy Institute report credits Secretary of States Hillary Clinton’s Senior Adviser for Innovation Alec Ross and Policy Advisor for Innovation Ben Scott, "who have helped embed ediplomacy at State, driven an external and internal ediplomacy promotion campaign and helped conceive of specific ediplomacy initiatives."

Read the whole thing here.

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