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Digital Public Diplomacy: The dark & the Bright Side -Prof.Dr.Pratik Rajan Mungekar

The scope, volume, and intensity of global data connectivity are expected to explode in the coming years. The disruption produced by this transformation will have far-reaching implications for the way in which individuals, communities and societies define and conduct themselves and for the way in which public diplomacy as a practice of building bridges with foreign publics. Our article seeks to advance our understanding of how digital technologies re-sets the context in which public diplomacy operates by reshaping the medium of public communication, blurring the boundary between foreign and domestic affairs and empowering new actors. The evolution of the medium of communication is a key factor affecting the conduct of public diplomacy in the digital age. Without communication, there can be no diplomacy. Yet the tools through which diplomats communicate are undergoing a revolution and, subsequently, so is the context of public diplomacy. Some of these revolutions are already evident, as is the case with visual enhancements and algorithms, while others such as virtual reality and 3D simulations have yet to reveal themselves. By leveraging new communication tools, diplomats can augment public diplomacy activities and ensure that public diplomacy messages are heard and listened to by relevant audiences. One example of how new communication tools can be leveraged by diplomats toward public diplomacy goals is machine learning.





Given the challenge of information overload and the growing competitiveness of the online space, machine learning will likely become an indispensable tool for studying pattern recognition and making data-driven predictions about the main issues of concern for the target audiences. As the volume of data-driven interactions continues to grow at an exponential rate, one can make oneself heard only by professionally learning how to separate ‘signals’ from the background ‘noise’ and by proactively adjusting one’s message accordingly in a manner that ensures maximal visibility in the online space, in real-time. Making oneself listened to would require, by extension, a better understanding of the cognitive frames and emotional undertones that enable audiences to connect meaningfully with a particular message. Most importantly, the ongoing transition from a textual to a visual or audio form of communication is likely to accelerate and, consequently, public diplomacy campaigns are expected to become increasingly sophisticated in visual or audio terms. Augmented reality technology is particularly well suited to take advantage of this trend by allowing, for instance, public diplomats to use geolocation-based apps to showcase issues of interest in a tailored and interactive manner. In this way, communication tools will continue to impact the context in which public diplomacy is practiced. Yet digitalization is also expected to create new audiences for public diplomacy. Citizens’ migration online has created a new reality in which domestic and foreign audiences flock to the same digital platforms thus blurring the lines between the domestic and the foreign. Consequently, diplomats can now engage with the national citizenry and rally domestic support for foreign policy achievements. Given that some nations have taken to using digital tools towards disinformation, misinformation, and propaganda, diplomats may use new digital tools to rally support from the national citizenry and ensure that the citizenry remains well-informed. Using virtual reality


diplomats could transport their citizens to the scene of an international crisis and demonstrate the effectiveness of their policies. Using new tele-presence capabilities, diplomats will be able to hold town-hall meetings throughout their nations thus narrating national policies while algorithms could be used to identify citizens are exposed to fictitious or malicious information. These citizens can then be engaged to limit the impact of disinformation campaigns. Finally, digitalization is likely to empower new diplomatic actors. As digital technologies grow in their agency and impact, two questions come to the fore: who are diplomats, and who needs public diplomacy? In terms of diplomats, it is now evident that tech giants and their CEOs have morphed into diplomatic actors who interact with world leaders and with national institutions in order to promote their business interests. Indeed, some tech giants now have resources exceeding those of some sovereign states and can bypass the formal structures of their home nation’s diplomatic bureaucracy. By creating new digital tools tech giants impact the context of public diplomacy while through their diplomatic activities, they impact relations between states. Some countries have realized the awesome power that tech giants now hold and have taken measures to engage with such giants. Such is the case with Denmark that recently appointed a tech Ambassador tasked with managing relations with tech actors in Silicon Valley and China. When publicly announcing this decision, Danish Minister for Foreign Affairs Anders Samuelsen stated: ‘Companies such as Google, IBM, Apple, and Microsoft are now so large that their economic strength and impact on our everyday lives exceed that of many of the countries where we have more traditional embassie’. Other nations soon followed suite while tasking tech Ambassadors with dealing with a host of issues including digital governance, international negotiations on cybersecurity, and intellectual property issues online. These recent ambassadorial appointments signify not only the important socio-economic and political roles of technology, but also how diplomacy is evolving and adapting to the disruptive changes in our societies. Tech Ambassadors acknowledge that public diplomacy is now being conducted in a new era where material forces or wealth are not the most important trump card, but data and information instead. While our analysis suggests that diplomats may use new technologies to augment public diplomacy activities, engage with new audiences and manage relations with tech giants, we are aware that these technologies can also be used for to advance the “dark side” of public diplomacy. 3D simulations, algorithmic filtering, and the absence of an international consensus on cybersecurity can all be used to strategically spread disinformation, increase mistrust and build walls instead of bridges. Despite these inevitable challenges, the future of public diplomacy in the digital age remains bright, as long as diplomats continue to engage creatively and positively with digital technologies and stay committed to the mission of building bridges between offline and online communities. Digital technologies can play an influential role in how individuals, communities, and societies not only interact with each other but also how to redefine themselves as social and political actors in the digital age. I. ORGANISATION AND MANAGEMENT 1. Top leadership must champion innovation


Digital diplomacy innovation needs support from the top leadership. This is particularly important during the pivotal first steps. Karl Bildt, former Minister for Foreign Affairs of Sweden is often quoted as the person who pushed Swedishdigital diplomacy forward, through his dedicated approach. The Ministers of Foreign Affairs of Estonia and Latvia also lead their ministries’ efforts by setting their own examples. Sushma Swaraj, India’s Minister of External Affairs, is an avid social media user, who often personally answers messages ranging from calls for help to suggestions about Indian diplomacy. Leaders need to show proactivity or at least reassure their staff that creativity and innovation are well-seen and encouraged. 2. Avoid a grandiose digital diplomacy strategy It is easy to slip into an attempt to create a spectacular strategy. In particular, new developments such as digital diplomacy tend to trigger calls for a strategic framework. Although a forward-looking vision is important, the over-formalization of a vision can be counter-productive, as it could create rigid structures that might not allow for the flexibility needed to adapt to new technologies. The most effective digital diplomacies rely on guidelines as a softer way to manage efforts in this field. For example, the UK produced a set of social media guidelines for diplomats. 3. Digital diplomacy is much more than social media and public diplomacy Most of the current e-diplomacy coverage focuses on public diplomacy, with social media activities of presidents or ministers contributing to the creation of a positive country brand – hence the popular term twiplomacy. But this is just the tip of the iceberg. A much broader array of digital diplomacy activities takes place in thousands of diplomatic negotiations, policy initiatives, and crisis management actions every day worldwide – and they all depend heavily on digital technologies. Although these dimensions of digital diplomacy may be less visible than public diplomacy, they are no less important. For example, the social media network of the Indian Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) has been used in crisis management situations in Libya and Iraq. Social media was often the most effective way to communicate with nationals and organize their vacations from these two countries. 4. High budgets sometimes yield low impacts and low budgets sometimes yield high impacts Money rarely solves the problems that digital diplomacy has to address, which are mostly related to changes in professional cultures, and the organisation of diplomatic services. A lot of money can trigger grand projects, ‘the right solutions for the wrong problems’, and, ultimately, failure. Using Wikipedia is one example of a low-costhigh-impact public diplomacy project. Wikipedia entries often rank at the top of search engine results for your country and its diplomacy. Editing Wikipedia pages is very inexpensive and simple. Anyone can do it. If diplomatic services are well aware of how Wikipedia works and the norms that govern the platform,, they can easily use Wikipedia as part of their public diplomacy efforts, through editing and shaping messages. 5. Select the most effective digital platform for your needs Websites are the most dominant digital platform: 170 ministries of foreign affairs (MFAs) have their own websites through which they communicate with the public.


Twitter is the most popular social media platform among MFAs, followed by Facebook, according to a recent survey of the use of digital platforms by MFAs. The selection of a digital platform will depend on many factors, including the target audience, and the availability of human resources for maintaining the ministry’s online presence on the platform. 6. Put diplomats, particularly young officials, in the driving seat E-tools and procedures cannot be easily imposed on existing team members. They need to grow bottom-up from working diplomats. Sometimes, initiatives to use new technologies come from diplomats themselves, often those with an interest in the Internet. With a technologically-savvy young generation, this is becoming more common. Sometimes, techies should just nudge diplomats to start using certain tools. Most successful digital diplomacy projects (e.g. USA, UK, India) have been led by diplomats. 7. Encourage early adopters, but do not punish laggers There are different speeds in the adoption of digital diplomacy, often mirroring generational differences and levels of interest in technology. While leaders in digital diplomacy should be encouraged to join in, it is extremely important to avoid a division into ‘two-track diplomatic services’. Clear, motivating efforts should be made to encourage, train, and engage ‘digital diplomacy laggers’. They may not have all of the necessary social media skills or interests, but they probably bring in extensive diplomatic knowledge and experience, including writing skills. A bit of patience and innovation can generate enormous results by involving experienced diplomats in digital diplomacy processes. 8. Learn from others, with necessary caution Learning from others and being open to innovative ideas are given prerequisites for successful digital diplomacy. However, there are certain limitations on the transfer of expertise and experience from other domains. First, learning from the business sector is limited by the specific professional culture and institutional dynamism of diplomatic services. One can learn a lot from others about how to operate a social media account or campaign. Yet, the more the discussion becomes organizational (related to motivation, procedures, risk management, etc.), the less relevant this external expertise would be. Second, there are limits to learning from other diplomatic services. Big countries, such as the USA, UK, China, Russia, and India, have different aims, as well as different resources for digital diplomacy than smaller ones. Bigger countries also try to address a wider global public. Medium and small states have fewer resources, but usually, they also have fewer demands on them. As a result, their campaigns are usually more targeted. For small countries, the experience of countries such as Estonia, Singapore, and Latvia is particularly relevant. 9. Return on investment Traditionally, digital development costs have been associated with hardware and software. Today, these costs are minimal, which is why people often perceive social media as being ‘free’. But social media requires a lot of staff time, which is becoming a precious resource. For example, in 2012 the US Department of State had


already 150 staff working exclusively on social media, as well as other staff dedicating part of their working time to social media support tasks. Human resource expenses are the main element of investment which should be used in calculating an entity’s return on investment. II. SECURITY 10. Cybersecurity is about risk management Digital data is like water. Once it is released, it is naturally drawn to any possible path to leak. You must start from the assumption that you cannot construct a bullet-proof digital system. What you can do is manage the risk. Ultimately, you have to decide what level of risk your organization can tolerate. This is particularly important in the use of social media, where openness and engagement increase cyber risk. Once you decide what level of cyber risk you can tolerate, you have to implement the necessary cybersecurity measures. Technology is indispensable for cybersecurity, but it is rarely a stand-alone solution. Security breaches can usually be traced back to some kind of human error. A lot can be achieved by increasing digital hygiene, training your staff, creating smart cybersecurity procedures, and preparing mitigation procedures to ensure rapid response when a breach does, inevitably, occur. 11. You cannot succeed without failure. Make sure that failures are contained and that lessons are learned The tolerance of failure is the main field of tension between diplomacy and social media cultures. Diplomacy is a risk-avoidance profession by its very nature. Social media projects have an in-built possibility for failure. Many social initiatives fail. By being prepared for failure, you can enjoy your success even more. III. TIME – TIMING – TEMPO 12. Be aware of the time needed: one day – one month – one-year dynamics Digital diplomacy has a very low entry point; i.e. one can learn how to use Twitter or Facebook in just one day. However, at the same time, new users face a considerable challenge in communicating effectively using social media. It takes at least a month to start using these tools in a reasonably effective way (learning to listen and follow, acquiring the cultural context, and developing a unique social media voice). Even more time, at least one year is needed for an institution to effectively integrate social media into its operations. Social media use requires a change in communication habits and an organised daily routine. Such changes require time and patience. Paradoxically, the patience needed to effectively integrate social media does not correspond to the perception of immediacy that surrounds social media and the Internet world. The aspect of the time investment needed for digital diplomacy is often counter-intuitive. Digital and social media carry the implicit idea of the dominance of the ‘now and immediate’. Yet the time needed to make an impact is often underestimated. 13. Experiment and try to be among the early adopters, but also occasionally benefit from a delayed start


Technologies change very fast. New tools emerge and new communities appear. You need to be aware of these changes. Over time, you can also develop an understanding of whether a new technology is a just more hype, or if it is something that is here to stay. Following the latest technological developments is very important, but it takes time and resources. Diplomats, in particular from small diplomatic teams, could, however, benefit from a delayed start in using new digital tools. On the condition that the start is scheduled at the point when the new technology begins moving to the so-called ‘plateau of productivity’ – so that no resources are wasted on ineffective uses of the technology. IV. CONTENT, CONTEXT,AND FAILURES 14. Content is king in an era where context is content Constant engagement and timely content attract followers and make your online presence vibrant. It can be in the form of a good tweet, a blog post, or a video clip. Content – and easy ways to navigate through it – is needed for a clear, engaging, and user-friendly website. Context is another ‘king’ or at least a ‘prince’. Ultimately what matters is the context in which the content is presented. Effective contextualized content showcases the immediate objective of the message (e.g. an event, a state visit, follow-up, a topical discussion), its audience, and its timing. 15. Be aware of different audiences Social media reaches a wide variety of audiences. You have to be aware of the predominant audiences of the platform through which you send your message. Different platforms usually attract slightly different followers. It is also crucial to bear in mind the purpose of the message– which in turn redefines its intended audience and is reflected in the tone and language of the message. Typically, Instagram and Snapchat are used by a younger population. Facebook is a more ‘mainstream’ platform. Linkedin is mostly followed by professional communities. The popularity and demographics of each social media platform vary from country to country as well. 16. Try to separate official from informal communication channels Diplomacy and social media contain inherent tensions. Diplomacy is an official profession very often presented in long and not particularly engaging documents. Press releases are issued, treaties are signed, and notes verbales are exchanged. Their distribution is valuable for the media, and for others who follow national diplomacies. Yet, it is difficult to ‘win the hearts and minds’ of the general public through this type of document. The most effective solution to avoid miscommunication and confusion is to separate formal and informal communications. For example, the Indian MEA achieved this separation by creating an official channel for official announcements, and a public diplomacy channel for more creative and informal engagement with its social media audience. You can find official announcements at @MEAIndia and more informal public diplomacy content at @IndianDiplomacy. 17. Try to separate professional from a private communication in the digital space Separating professional from private communication is probably the main challenge for, and a potential weakness of, digital diplomacy. Diplomacy is often more than a profession. Practicing diplomacy does not end at the end of the working day.


Diplomats represent their countries 24/7. The dividing line between their professional and private lives therefore hardly exists. The Clintone-mail crisis is another prominent example of the difficulty in separating professional from private communication in digital spaces. Indian diplomacy insists on separating professional from private digital communication sometimes. The successes and failures in this policy could offer more relevant lessons for other diplomatic services. 18. You cannot control the message in social media, and sometimesthe medium is the message Traditionally, diplomatic services have tended to control the interpretation of the message by domestic and foreign publics (selection of media, reducing ambiguity, etc.). In the social media space, it is almost impossible to control the interpretation of messages. Diplomatic services should be aware of this risk. 19. Prepare for difficulties in advance, during sunny days

Crises and difficulties will come sooner or later in your digital diplomacy efforts. Prepare in advance. The best preparation consists of building and maintaining your credibility within the community that follows you. Credibility requires time and effort. Once you are exposed to criticism, the best insurance policy you have is your followers and your social media community. V. MAXIMISE KNOWLEDGE AND HIDDEN RESOURCES 20. The most important digital diplomacy resource is found in the knowledge and experience of your diplomats. Make sure to use them. Diplomatic services are rich with expertise and knowledge. These resources are usually underutilized because of the complexity and priorities of organizational and professional structures. Diplomatic services have to move from the traditional need-to-know principle to a need-to-share principle. This decision creates certain trade-offs, since the need-to-share provides access to a wider number of officials and, ultimately, increases the chances for leaks. This trade-off is worth accepting, given the importance of the internal sharing of information for the efficient running of modern diplomatic services and for effective public diplomacy in particular. 21. Diplomats are writers and social media is about writing The primary tool of diplomacy is the written language. As Italian authors, Baldi and Baldocci stressed, ‘diplomats are born with a pen in their hand.’ Yes, diplomacy happens in corridors and at dinners, but ultimately, diplomatic deals have to be put onto paper, even if this has transformed into an electronic version. Within diplomatic services, the ability to write informative and concise reports is often a criterion for diplomatic professionalism and advances in career. With this centrality of writing, diplomats are already trained and prepared to begin the practice of social media and digital diplomacy.

This could explain why the Indian diplomatic service is so successful in digital diplomacy. The Indian diplomatic service has given us many prominent writers. One example is Ambassador Vikas Swarup, the current spokesperson of the MEA, and leader of its digital diplomacy project. His 2005 novel ‘Q&A’ was adapted into the Oscar-winning movie ‘SlumdogMillionaire’.


VI. TRAINING AND SUPPORT FOR DIGITAL DIPLOMATS

22. Presumed competences of digital diplomats

Diplomats should have sufficient skills and knowledge to judge what they can, and what they cannot publish on social media. They are often recruited after a very competitive selection process. The UK introduced the principle of presumed competencies of their officials. If this is taken as a starting point, digital diplomacy can be introduced in simple ways. The ministry, however, still needs to train diplomats and develop crisis management mechanisms (in case something goes wrong).


23. Build learning into your digital organisation

The division between senior and junior diplomats could be a barrier, but also a great opportunity. They have a lot to offer to each other. Senior diplomats have a lot of experience and knowledge about the diplomatic profession. Junior diplomats tend to be masters of social media.If you manage this dichotomy intelligently, you can turn a potential obstacle into a great opportunity, and allow two generations to learn from each other in an interactive, productive way.


24. Social management for social media

Even the term ‘social media indicates a need to use a social approach in its management. This is not about technology. It is about understanding the required professional culture and dynamics. It is about dealing with the challenges social media presents to traditional hierarchies in diplomatic services. The key is to reduce the number of those who are excluded from digital diplomacy processes. Social media and digital diplomacy can create convergence and new energy within diplomatic services.


25. Training, training, training(and practice, practice,practice)

and finally, it is important to engage in just-in-time and ongoing training programmes. India’s MEA has clearly reconfirmed our insights that training curriculums must adapt very quickly when working with innovative technologies. New technologies often have to be adopted very quickly. In addition, training must be supplemented by coaching. Social media coaches should be available to help in critical moments. Curriculum for training ranges from the ‘one-day’ aspect (learning basic technical skills)to more comprehensive training.


Thank You..


About Dr Pratik Mungekar



1) He is the first Indian to be appointed as the planetary Minister of Sustainable Development of Newly emerging The Kingdom of Atlantis (a Decentralized Sovereign Kingdom)


2) He is the first youngest Indian whose book Introduction to Sustainable Development Goals (Non-Academic) is now part of the Atlantean Education program.


3) He is the first youngest Indian to receive 300+ Honorary Doctorates from all over the world.


4)He is the first youngest Indian professor who taught more than 8000+ Students & Career guided 4000+ Students to date & the count is still on.


5) He is the first Indian who has 850+ International, National & State Awards 6 National Patents, 15 World Records at the age of 28 for his contribution in the field of Teaching & Research.


6) He is the first youngest Indian to receive 125+ Honorary High Degrees across the Globe.


7) He is the first Indian to be appointed by 45+ International organizations on various High-positions at the same time.


8) He is the first youngest Indian to be appointed as Ambassador by 46 organizations of many countries in almost all disciplines.


9) He is the first Indian youngest professor to start teaching at the age of sixteen, the age of twenty Seven He has completed twelve years of Teaching.<