Foreign Policy Blogs

Secretary Clinton Gets Serious About eDiplomacy

 The U.S. Department of State is quickly establishing itself as the most forward leaning U.S. public organization to embrace the use of technology to usher in a new era of open government.  The latest example that Secretary Clinton is committed to helping other nations to press the ‘reset’ button on how they share information and interact with their citizens is the Civil Society 2.0 program.  Madam Secretary explained the program in these words –

We seek to support civil society efforts worldwide because we believe that civil society helps to make communities more prosperous and stable. It helps to drive economic growth that benefits the greatest number of people. And it pushes political institutions to be agile and responsive to the people they serve. So the United States is launching an initiative called Civil Society 2.0. This organized effort will provide new technologies to civil society organizations. We will send experts in digital technology and communications to help build capacity.”

Secretary Clinton Gets Serious About eDiplomacy

Now, this is a program that even the department’s staunchest critics could learn to love – well, maybe not all critics. Really, who could condemn a program that aims to help governments become more transparent and accessible to their citizens? This is a superb example of a low cost ‘soft power’ initiative that will help to further fortify America’s position as the partner of choice for many of our traditional allies as well as a few neo-democratic states.  Internationally minded foreign policy experts, and armchair quarterbacks like yours truly, have been advocating for new ways in which the U.S. government engages developing nations — Civil Society 2.0 is a great step in the right direction.

One of the operational platforms of the CS2.0 initiative is a series of ‘TechCamps”, hosted by partner nations around the world.  The camps are designed to facilitate digital literacy and the sharing of current challenges between civil society organizations (CSOs), their peers, and technologists (both local and regionally). The engagements include hands-on training sessions that enable CSOs to learn how to use the technological tools that can help advance their work. The department states that, “TechCamps are unique because after the event is over and problems have been identified, along with solutions, CSOs are connected to networks of digital volunteers interested in helping CSOs advance their work.”

Again, I applaud Secretary Clinton for using non-traditional approaches to engage our partner nations. Now, if we can only convince our own government officials to sponsor similar programs for U.S. civil servants and private citizens — I won’t hold my breath.

 

Author

Oliver Barrett

Oliver Leighton-Barrett is a multi-lingual researcher and a decorated retired military officer specializing in the inter-play between fragile states and national security matters. A former U.S. Marine, and Naval aviator, Oliver is a veteran of several notable U.S. military operations, to include: Operation Restore Hope (Somalia); and Operation Enduring Freedom (Afghanistan and Philippines). His functional areas of focus include: U.S. Diplomacy; U.S. Defense; and Climate Change. His geographic areas of focus include: Latin America and the Caribbean and the Middle East and North Africa (MENA).

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