As the robust advance of information and communication technologies (ICT) continue to enable and facilitate people around the globe to connect and to interact directly with one another, social media outlets have stolen the attentions of many bureaucrats for their major role in voicing peoples’ aspirations and shaping public policies in many areas.Along with the exponential growth of social media around the world, many government officials, including diplomats, have utilized this channel to conduct and expand their public diplomacy.
This emergence of new diplomatic operating environment enables diplomats and relevant officials to communicate, connect, interact and maintain contacts with their domestic as well as foreign constituencies. Two-way dialogues are easier to build, creating direct and personal communication channels to listen and respond to the societies’ needs.
Although many argue that the advance ICT in the form of social media only add a new dimension in foreign policies’ business, it is widely accepted that the wider use of social media outlets, such as Facebook and Twitter, do create and bring significant impacts on the ground. As a wide range of opinions, political views and interests, and even mobilization of activities are widely and easily shared, peoples-driven transformation process are more likely to take place. The Arab Spring is indeed one of the illustrious examples of this phenomenon, lauded the role of social media and even coined the term “Twitter Revolution”.
While security and political issues are still considered sensitive and tend to be handled in more traditional ways, many foreign ministries expand their public diplomacy efforts focusing on social, economy and cultural exchanges through social media.Rigorous dissemination of information of one country’s values and cultures has been aggressively conducted in these platforms.
Nevertheless, as this new technological revolution is utilized in some foreign ministries, it proves to be difficult for many. The adaption of digital diplomacy by many foreign ministries takes slow pace and to some extents, it suggests that there is a degree of uncertainty over this novel concept. Perhaps, two of the biggest questions here are what digital diplomacy is and what it can be used for. In addition, how to effectively formulate and implement communication strategies using these new platforms continues to be debated.
At this juncture, one particular foreign ministry has been considered successful in embracing these novel technologies. The U.S. State Department has arguably been known as “the world’s leading user” of e-diplomacy or some might say, internet diplomacy. The U.S. State Department, including its representatives and missions abroad, has been strategically using websites and technology-basedvenues to help carry out its diplomatic affairs.
Along the same line, the European Union continues to adapt its policies and approaches in dealing with the world’s affairs and responding to the exponential growth of social media. Some ASEAN member countries,such as Thailand and the Philippines, are also on the front lines when it comes to digital diplomacy.Indonesia, to some extent, has also joined the game and made use of these latest technologies.
Now, how about Indonesia?