Tradition Meets Technology: Protocol and 21st Century Statecraft

January 22, 2012
Alec Ross Twitter Q&A

The traditions of protocol are some of the oldest in diplomatic history, and its practice has created the framework for international relations. On Friday, January 13, 2012, however, the Office of the Chief of Protocol hosted its first State of the Administration briefing of this year to talk about the use of new technology in diplomacy. The briefing featured the Secretary of State's Senior Advisor for Innovation, Alec Ross, and representatives from Facebook and Twitter along with His Excellency Dino Djalal, Ambassador of the Republic of Indonesia.

As an initiative of Protocol's Diplomatic Partnerships Division, the State of the Administration speaker series provides foreign ambassadors posted in Washington with opportunities to interact directly with senior members of our government who can provide first-hand knowledge of the administration's work and discuss some of the most important issues of the day. In honor of the State Department's 21st Century Statecraft month, the Protocol Office utilized the series as a way to educate and inform the diplomatic community about the use of digital tools in diplomacy.

The briefing kicked off with remarks by Mr. Ross on the power of information networks and the rise of citizen-centered leadership; he was followed by Mr. Jeremy Heimans of Purpose, a leading organization in the creation of 21st century movements. To provide the attending diplomats with the tools to embrace this new technology, Protocol brought in representatives from Facebook and Twitter. The two social media companies briefed the guests on what their technology does and how embassies and diplomatic missions can use social media platforms successfully.

Nearly 200 members of the Diplomatic Corps rotated between the two Facebook and Twitters sessions, and all of them benefitted from an incredibly valuable first-person perspective briefing by Ambassador Djalal (@dinopattidjalal). As an avid practitioner of social media, the Ambassador was able to educate his colleagues on how he, as a high-ranking diplomat, has found a way to use the tools in a safe and effective manner.

From Ambassador Djalal's highly attended briefing, to the lessons learned in the Facebook and Twitter sessions, it was clear that this was a valuable program. As Mr. Ross said, "Information equals power, and networked information equals networked power." So, as networked power gains strength and momentum, it will be those citizens and diplomats who recognize this change -- and use it to their advantage -- who succeed in the 21st century.

For more information on the work of the Office of the Chief of Protocol, follow us on Twitter (@DipPartnerships) or check out our website: www.state.gov/Protocol.

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