Digital Transformation of Diplomacy: The Way Forward for Small Island States

Digital Transformation of Diplomacy: The Way Forward for Small Island States

Sam Goundar (The University of the South Pacific, Fiji), Bettylyn Chandra (The University of the South Pacific, Fiji), Akashdeep Bhardwaj (University of Petroleum and Energy Studies, India), Fatemeh Saber (University of Malaya, Malaysia) and Subhash Appana (The University of the South Pacific, Suva, Fiji)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-7998-2367-4.ch003

Abstract

This chapter seeks to examine the digital transformation (digitalisation) of diplomacy and how such digital transformations can be used to positively influence and improve a country's foreign services. The chapter further explores how the country's diplomats and their Foreign Service counterparts at Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA) can utilize the tools provided by digitalisation to advance the country's interests. Given the critical intelligence data, diplomatic protocols, and confidential information exchanged at the diplomatic level between countries, it is equally important to evaluate and assess the cyber security measures that are being taken to secure the digital network of the diplomatic missions. Scholarly research was initially conducted to position the field of research amongst pertinent literature to ascertain the use of digital tools in diplomacy and present key deliberations that exist.
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Introduction

In this age of information and communication technology, soft power has progressed by the influences of digital technology on the conceptualization, practice and institutions of diplomacy. The social web is key together with instant messaging and online platforms provided by mobile communications where diplomacy of state-to-state relations is encompassing of state to civil society relations.

Norwegian Ambassadors use Skype to engage with university students in public diplomacy, whilst Palestinians use Facebook to engage with Israelis and Kenya uses Twitter for consular aid (Manor, 2017. However, at the same time users of these platforms should be wary that information technology and systems could threaten the privacy of individuals.

In the international fora of state relationships, diplomacy is the art of carrying out negotiations, forging alliances, deliberate on treaties and making agreements based on face-to-face forums. Today, diplomacy is the cornerstone governing foreign policy settings and is taking new shape and substance in the fast evolving age of digitalization. The internet has allowed for the real time communication and exchange of information across global platforms where the conduct of foreign policy meetings can be held in virtual environments like Skype.

Figure 1.

Social Media Fact Sheet of Foreign Ministries. Source: Diplo Foundation (2019)

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In the process, the internet has typically amplified the array of actors and their interests in making international policy decisions and shifting from states to be inclusive of non-state actors like intergovernmental organizations. Tools of the internet like social media platforms and blogs have exposed foreign policy makers to global viewers and at the same permitted governments to reach their intended audiences instantaneously.

The merging of the internet and mobile technology for example, permits even the least developed countries privy to access business prospects directly across state borders and create much needed economic opportunities.

For the stateless like the Kurds it has created mobilization with a ‘virtual state’ embedded in social media; for the practitioners and academics of climate change the internet has provided a platform to network and debate for a global common good.

This paper examines the way in which the digitalization of diplomacy can be used to positively affect the diplomacy of small island states like Fiji in the global arena. Scholarly research is initially conducted to position the subject amongst pertinent literature to ascertain the use of digital tools in diplomacy and present key deliberations that exist. In-depth interviews with key personnel like Deputy Secretary Policy, Foreign Service Desk officers, and Deputy Secretary of MFA will provide the qualitative analysis on Fiji’s perspective. The advantages of using the digital tools for diplomacy, the impact of internet on international relations will be explored, challenges like violations to the communication protocol examined to provide guidance proposed to manage these platforms.

Figure 2.

Global Use of Social Networks by Foreign Ministries. Source: Diplo Foundation (2019)

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