Indonesia’s Diplomacy in the Digital Era
With new information and communication technologies being rigorously used in various aspect of life, including diplomacy, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Indonesia,- hereinafter refer to as Kemlu, has joined the crowd as well.
As public diplomacy continues to be one of the missions of Kemlu, policies and programs which create and support Indonesia’s positive image will persistently be strengthened. Moreover, economic diplomacy, which is generally referred to as the conduct of diplomacy using economic leverages, policies and measures to achieve national goals, and cultural diplomacy, where “exchange of ideas, information, values, systems, traditions, beliefs, and other aspects of culture, with the intention of fostering mutual understanding,“ should ideally be supported by all elements and venues of diplomacy, including through social media outlets.
Along with the internal institutional reform taking place since 2001, Kemlu has established two prominent directorates in this case, Public Diplomacy as well as Information and Media Directorates, under the auspices of the Directorate General of Information and Public Diplomacy (previously known as Directorate General of Information, Public Diplomacy and International Treaties).
As stipulated in the Minister for Foreign Affairs Regulation Number 7/2011, Public Diplomacy Directorate is in charge of harnessing public support at home as well as abroad towards the implementation of Indonesia’s foreign policies in the area of political, security, economic, development, social and cultural, as well as other strategic and emerging issues. It is equipped with five relevant sub-directorates, namely political and security; economics and development; social cultural; current and strategic issues; as well administrative division.
Moreover, Information and Media Directorate is responsible for taking necessary measures in the field of information and media, particularly regarding news, multimedia, data, media facilitation, audiovisual, and publishing, which will establish Indonesian positive image and shape positive public opinion supporting Indonesian national interests abroad. It has six sub-directorates, namely news; multimedia; media data; mass media facilitation; audiovisual and publishing; and administration. In this connection, multimedia sub-directorate is carrying out multimedia information management and development of Kemlu’s website, including, among others, in preparing, coordinating, and implementing policies and programs in this field. Formulation of standards, norms, guidelines, criteria and procedures in the field of information and media also falls under this sub-directorate. With this mandate, Information and Media Directorate is indeed one of the spearheads of Kemlu’s digital diplomacy.
In addition to traditional ways and media in conducting public diplomacy, various novel information and communication channels have been utilized by Kemlu, including official websites, Facebook and Twitter accounts. The official website of Kemlu, for example, has been established since 2002. Beside better displays and more user-friendly menu, further improvement is continuously conducted, including by integrating websites of Indonesia’s 131 missions abroad, which consist of 95 embassies, 3 permanent missions, 30 consulate generals and 3 consulates. New menu, such as diplomatic blogs, has been added since October 9, 2009. Displaying 33 notes until the time of this writing, a wide range of topics from political to social cultural issues as well as ASEAN dynamics to protection of Indonesian citizens abroad have been expressed through creative writings. Success stories of Indonesian citizens and related stakeholders abroad are also exhibited, and updated information on career and scholarships, including on internships in Kemlu, job vacancies in international organizations, are also available. Furthermore, online public services such as visa and consular service, diplomatic facilities and media services, are also available on the website.
Despite the fact that formal policies on the use of social media in conducting diplomacy are yet to be developed, Kemlu has managed to create its official Facebook account and page since June 2010.Until the time of writing (November 2012), 5,995 individuals ‘like’ it, while 66 has ‘talked’ about it. Many issues, in the forms of status, links, and photos, have been raised on this page, including the latest Bali Democracy Forum, ASEAN Summit and Senior Official Meeting, as well as other events and meetings like various bilateral meetings of Foreign Minister Natalegawa with his counterparts.
One interesting development is the recent post of the statement of British Foreign Secretary, William Hague, during the recent visit of President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono to that country. Unlike previous posts which dominantly took the form of links to relevant news from Kemlu’s official website, this feed is submitted as a complete statement and provided in Bahasa Indonesia as well as in English.
On Twitter, Kemlu has established also an official account, @Portal_Kemlu_RI. Until the time of writing, there are 2,580 followers from many parts of Indonesia and the world. 1,732 tweets (as of November 18, 2012 at 10.45 am) have been broadcasted, almost all in the forms of direct links of headlines from Kemlu’s website. The English version account, @MoFA_Indonesia, has 221 tweets and 150 followers so far.
Policies as well as information regarding high-profile issues, such as protection of Indonesian citizens abroad and international security and conflicts happening in Gaza Strip, Syria, Myanmar and other places, have been tweeted frequently. Moreover, in line with Kemlu’s priorities, economic diplomacy is also highlighted, as business meetings and trade fairs, the visit of business sectors from various countries, and the signing of various trade agreements are among the feeds being tweeted. Getting more specifically on cultural diplomacy, efforts emphasizing people-to-people contacts and social cultural events, such as art and cultural scholarships, student exchanges, technical cooperation, cultural performances, Indonesian nights and many more, are also actively disseminated through Twitter.
Beside the abovementioned Kemlu’s engagement, many Indonesian missions and embassies around the world manage their own Facebook or Twitter accounts. Statistics show that Indonesian Embassies in Amman, Beijing, Bern, Bucharest, Cairo, Canberra, Den Haag, London, Kuala Lumpur, Manila, Moscow, Singapore, Ottawa, Port Moresby, Washington D.C., and Yangon, among others, have actively engaged in these networking sites.
At personal level, many of Indonesian Ambassadors and diplomats have also utilized social media outlets as one of the tools to introduce and promote Indonesia abroad. Despite the fact that their accounts are initially set for personal use, some of the feeds broadcasted elements of Indonesian values, cultures and ideas, thus positively contribute to the conduct of Indonesian diplomacy, particularly economic and cultural diplomacy. Topics such as Indonesian Batik and traditional heritage, protection of Indonesian citizens abroad, and Indonesian economic potentials dominate the feeds. Some of those active Facebook users are, among others, Prianti Gagarin Singgih-Djatmiko, Ambassador to Venezuela; Lutfi Rauf, Ambassador to Thailand; and Salman Al Farisi; Ambassador to United Arab Emirates.
Nevertheless, it is important to note that dissemination of information is just one dimensional way of communicating with constituents. Two-way dialogues are increasingly needed, if not demanded, by public, as part of the increasing global culture of transparency and accountability.
At this point, Kemlu still has to further develop the 2.0 aspect of this communication, the interactive nature between Kemlu and public. The establishment of interactive dialogues with public is still limited and we cannot deny that public complaints are still lodged to this institution for not being ‘responsive’. For simple examples, in some of the feeds in Facebook, users were frequently asking about the result of a competition held by Kemlu as well as updated information about scholarships which were not swiftly responded by the administrator. Moreover, most of the “followers” or “friends” are Indonesian diasporas or Kemlu’s big family. Although it is important to engage with Indonesian constituents, outreach programs focusing on foreign citizens can be further strengthened.
Amidst the challenges and difficulties faced in embracing social media, Kemlu’s increasingly active engagement with public through social media outlets shows that the Ministry is aware of the power of digital diplomacy in strengthening the outreach programs which will eventually advance Indonesia’s national interests. Therefore, clearer policies on the use of social media, coupled with specific targets and strategies, will help enhancing the conduct of Indonesian diplomacy through these channels.
 Minister for Foreign Affairs Regulation Number 7 Year 2011 on the Organization and Procedures in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Articles 680-699, available in http://pih.deplu.go.id/smd/php/vis_doc_file.php?id=4078.
Minister for Foreign Affairs. Ibid. Articles 656-679.
Hartyo Harkomoyo, Assistant Deputy Director for Information Management on Multilateral Issues, November 10 and 17, 2012, telephone interviews
Blog Diplomatik, (Accessed 8 November 2012) in http://blog.kemlu.go.id
 Success Story, (Accessed 8 November 2012) in http://www.kemlu.go.id/Pages/Achievement.aspx?l=en
 @MoFA_Indonesia is an official account of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs on Indonesia which uses English. https://twitter.com/MoFA_Indonesia/
 Observations on the abovementioned Facebook accounts were conducted for the period of October, 15-November, 18 in www.facebook.com. Many accounts owned and managed by Indonesian diplomats are also actively promoting Indonesia, but the writer limits the observations on the three accounts submitted.