What Is Digital Diplomacy?

The concept of “digital diplomacy” is still quite new, but in Internet years might be considered not so new! Our view is that generally, the concept of what it is, it’s value and purpose, are still being defined. What we certainly don’t know yet is if it is effective. But effectiveness will depend on how a government or organisation defines their measure of effectiveness; but that is another blog post entirely and one we will soon be getting to.

General Web Definitions:
There are no clear definitions based on our research. Definitions range from that found on Wikipedia to various institutions. The concept of digital diplomacy has also been called eDiplomacy or cyber diplomacy and 21st Century Statecraft, the Canadian government calls is “Open Policy” and others have adopted the term “ediplomacy” such as the EU government. Below are some links to the various definitions. Regardless, it can be distilled down to the use of social media and online channels for the use of communicating a country’s message to another country’s general population or to diaspora within a host country in the hopes that message will impact relations with the target country (see diagram below.)

The Broader Definition of eDiplomacy
Broadly defined we posit that digital diplomacy can be stated as using the Internet and new communications technologies (i.e. the social media) to help international diplomatic objectives. Some have argued this to be a form of “soft power” in the Joseph Nye Jr. form; perhaps under culture as a soft power? Here are some who’ve ventured definitions:

European Union diplomat definition

The Economist (an article from 2012; still has some instrinsic value)

DIY Diplomacy ( a very astute blogger)

Digital Diplomacy in the Asymmetrical Communications Environment
The “symmetrical communications environment” harkens back to the day when communications channels (public) were quite clearly defined and understood; print media, radio media and television. It was far more challenging say, for a British or American senior diplomat to get “air time” in a foreign country. Usually that was only when there was an international “issue” or “crisis”. Those senior diplomats, whether a country ambassador or senior visiting minister, had limited “air time” and had to fit into the relevant news cycle. Today, we live in an asymmetrical communications environment”, meaning that we must include online media channels into the communications mix – that means diplomats have the ability to communicate their country’s views, opinions and stance any time of day to the world. It also means that anyone else, including opposing governments, may also express their views using those channels. This is an asymmetrical environment for communications.

Foreign and Domestic Digital Diplomacy
Based on past and current research, we see Digital Diplomacy as having four primary aspects to it; direct foreign engagement with a target country, domestic awareness of foreign policy, domestic public diplomacy (domestic matters where government engages with citizens through digital channels) and engagement of diaspora communities at home and abroad.

Digital Diplomacy Architecture
We express this (sans domestic public diplomacy) in the following communications architecture for digital diplomacy, which we will expand upon on in later analysis. This diagram is meant to show how digital diplomacy is applied. The dash lines mean that the primary message may be edited or adapted by the initial recipient before reaching the true target audience. Always, the true target audience is the foreign government in power at the time (or perhaps the potential government in power?)

Digital Diplomacy or eDiplomacy

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