Digital Diplomacy: Game of Codes in Geo-Politics


Diplomacy is at the core of geopolitics today. But what is changing so fast is the tools of diplomacy. That is digital diplomacy. Big Tech is becoming a full fledge stakeholders and player in foreign policy. Then how is it unfolding in the policy planning as it is about understanding technology and all stakeholders in the tech spectrum and beyond?

Diplomacy is at the core of geopolitics today. But what is changing so fast is the tools of diplomacy. That is digital diplomacy. Look no further to test the finest of digital diplomacy taking shape when the India’s Ministry of External Affairs launched the MADAD Portal for online registration, tracking and resolution of grievances by Indians around the world. How did it work for India which is traditionally known for the systemic tangles overburdened with a continental population? MADAD became the unprecedented tool of the digital diplomacy which marked a new era of the Indian foreign policies for its global outreach. In this case, the digital diplomacy brought the massive Indian diaspora and citizen closer which is indeed a definitive shift the way our foreign offices were perceived as “exclusive” and “elite”, wondering in the world of their own. Now the digital diplomacy is about policy and diplomacy.

We are noticing the role of Big Tech evolving and becoming a full fledge stakeholders and player in foreign policy. Then how is it unfolding in the policy planning as it is now about understanding technology and all stakeholders in the tech spectrum and beyond?

Diplomacy is the way practised by the states to restrain the geo-political powers and influence the diplomatic behaviour of other nation’s government and natives through various approaches. The incarnation of ICT (Information and Communication Technology) and its exponential growth is redefining the dynamics of society with the burst of high-volume information and data. ICT is presenting prominent digital ecosystem to quick access real time information with better mechanism of communication. The universal escalation of modern advanced communication technologies is changing the behaviour of states to interact with the global countries. Countries are using social media as one of the tools to establish the communication with natives and foreign countries. Now they established the digital presence globally, in turn various private user and groups are virtually engaging with states directly with good number of influences.

The advancements of IT are redefining the methods of diplomacy between the states based on various actors. Those modern diplomatic actors have been shaped through indoctrination of techno society. It is helping the government to extend their diplomatic practise in resilient manner they may not be practiced otherwise. The use of social media and other communication technologies is expanding the diplomatic reach of the state more aggressively. Technology is always one the major component of the diplomacy. The intersection between diplomatic theories and technology is creating Digital Diplomacy, which is modes-operandi of new-world states. The digital platform is enhancing the people’s ability to connect and communicate one-to-one or one-to-many approach. Internet has given vast opportune to states to amplify their diplomatic reach within limited resources. Digital Diplomacy is the quick demand of the future states to execute the smooth diplomacy based on computational and programming abilities of the state.

Digital tools for geopolitics

The entire geo-politics is imposed by the adequate number of complex and unpredictable factors, which could not be identified through the traditional diplomatic approaches. The diplomats should always prepare themselves to face the traditional or non-traditional diplomatic issues. It demands more innovative and expert solution from the diplomats. Most of the Foreign Affairs department using AI-enabled intelligent software to decode the hidden patterns of the foreign state’s diplomatic moves.

The deep involvement of internet and its penetration up to the last node of the society enhanced the voice of the global citizens and improved their interest in complicated global policy making. It reduces the exclusive control of states for the complicated international decision making and enhanced the involvement of global citizens for any particular issue. The spread of information has been accelerated by the use of social media and other platforms. The internet introduces the capabilities to the diplomats to broadcast the information in most cost-effective approach among their own citizens and within within the foreign citizens.

The massive use of social media has created major challenges for the foreign state diplomats due to the high volume of public engagements. The social media is an influential foreign policy tool which increases the participation of foreign audiences in a country. It provides the opportunity to establish the long-lasting relationships with foreign public. It enabled government to trace the public opinions directly and do campaigning for the all the activities with the aim to build the positive image of the government. In the world politics the digital diplomacy is creating the transparent foreign states and their interactions by expanding the effect of social media.

Digitization of Global Society

As per the analysis of Global Overview Report ( of January 2022 the following observations could be focused: –

  • Total population of the world 7.91billion
  • Active internet users in the world 4.95 billion
  • Active social media user in the world 4.62 billion
  • 62.5% global population is using the active internet
  • 58.4% world population has exposure of active social media
  • The average amount of time each day spent by the global population with internet is approximately 6.58 hours.
  • Per day the average time spent by the world population with active social media is 2.27 hours per day.
  • In active internet users approximately 92.1% people access the internet directly via mobile phones.

Day-by-day the internet adaptation rate has been enhanced exponentially, which is providing a single platform to the global population. The enormous size of global internet users is deeply influencing the existing pattern of the geo-politics and creating the non-linear direction of global diplomacy. The negative narratives on different social media platforms are fabricating the complex circumstances for the countries and simultaneously influencing the behaviour of the foreign nations. Social Media is redefining the international politics with more contemporary factors.

In 2016 the twitter war between Denmark and Sweden had presented the impact of social media demonstrated different types of diplomatic challenges. To avoid the non-controlled political situations in country, twitter is blocked by some of the countries. Most of the government has twitter handles, presenting the strong motivation to enjoy the new diplomatic instrument in the favour of the nation.

Digitization of Diplomacy: New Diplomatic toolbox

The massive use of new-aged IT technologies by the global powers framing the new generation of diplomatic challenges. The emerging diplomatic challenges could be handled through the new intelligent information tools which must be the part of diplomatic toolbox. The digitalization of diplomacy is completed affected by the standard and time-related domination of the digital platforms. The universal presence of states through social media interacts with the individuals or group of people of social media users within the states or outside the states. The inclusion of digital platforms demanding the new approach from the states globally. The unbounded and edgeless nature of online platform is pushing diplomats towards unique kind of diplomatic challenges such as cross-border-influences. Diplomacy in information era is completely mismatched from the traditional approach due to capability of direct connection with the citizens of foreign countries. The deployment of digital diplomacy is bringing Government, Civil Society and tech-giants on single platforms.

Statesman must understand and identify the role of global tech-giants and their control mechanism for the global geo-politics. The omnipresence of the digital eco-system is formulating the new centre of powers and ideology in diplomatic affairs.  To handle the such versatile situations, countries are appointing the tech-ambassadors. Tech-ambassadors are reformulating the diplomacy for the in digital era. The market value of some of the big tech-giants are more than the GDP of some countries and they are controlling the entire internet ecosystem. Gradually the internal mechanism and the policies of the government is affected by the influence of the Tech-giants. Due to the massive economic size and global expansion, the big tech companies are new model of nations and which is not unnoticed by the geo-politics practitioners. After identifying this new mode of power, countries are appointing tech-ambassadors to establish liaising with the tech-giants in the interest of the country.

Social Media: New era weapon    

The modern digital platforms are presenting a unique weapon to the diplomats in the form of social media, which enabled them to regulate the foreign policies by the influencing the foreign citizens. Social media is useful to provoke the behaviour of the foreign government by using ample number of negative narratives and helps to diplomats to intrude in a specific group of people of specific belief in intensive way. In modern diplomacy, diplomats are using the social media to deliver the messages and attracting the foreign natives through the real-time online modes. The modes-operandi of enemy country diplomats are to generate and broadcast the false-media footprints through the social media, which could disgrace and disturb the political stability of the country.

Different social networking sites are intelligent virtual weapons, triggered by the states for the enemy state to conduct the internet based psychosocial warfare within the limited resources and budget. This is presenting the new conspiracy theory, where the minds and behaviour of natives of one country is controlled by the external agencies through the social media. Those ecosystems are constructing the favourable platforms for the international power players to drive the conspiracy based on establishment of false belief, deliberation of inauthentic news and the practice of fact denialism. The misinformation could be speeded from the enemy land through the social media to disbalance the sovereignty of a country. Technology is providing lot of opportunities but enclosed with some hidden threats. The new established digital platforms are new channel of diplomacy between the countries.

Digital Platforms: Restructuring the Ideologies and creating Deep State

The availability of information technology up to last node of the society is creating the deep impact among the policy makers to identify the new matrix. Globally states are trying to define the new norms of the future governance. The world-wide outstretched extremist groups are misusing the digital platforms as their control room for fatal activities. The universal digital networks are accessed by the extremist due to its closeness feature and broad reachability, which helps them to execute borderless broadcast of their ideology. The appearance of digital platforms is very similar to the concept of deep state and it is creating the good number of political challenges for the countries by creating new aggressive political philosophy.  The frankness of social media is formulating the different ideologies in the same state with lot of local challenges and sometimes the local government is unable to stop such critical situations. The deep states are always mentored by the foreign states and create hard political environment for the local government. It is new era warfare without investing the good number of resources and by insisting the local citizens to demolish the local political peace.

Digital Diplomacy: The low budget game

The establishments of traditional diplomacy always required high volume of budget with the constant costly efforts. It is not easy to practice by the small states due to various budgetary restrictions. The concept of digital diplomacy is favourable for the small states to practice diplomacy seamlessly with the help of intelligent programs. By the Digital Kosovo, the Republic of Kosovo showcased the effectiveness of digital diplomacy to the world. Kosovo cached the various international recognitions and institutional affiliations with the help of Digital Kosovo Platform. It was launched September 2013 to practice the next generation diplomacy. The Digital Kosovo motivated the young countries to practice the global diplomacy within the limited monetary requirements.

Code Driven Diplomacy

The enormous development in digital technologies is facilitating states with ample digital intelligence and accurate analytical power. The exponential growth of algorithms, network infrastructure, intelligent software and robust hardware is creating the more comprehensive digital and knowledge platform for the world.  The advancement in data analytics technology is providing more interactive analytical capabilities to the diplomats. The positive social media profile of countries helps them to establish strong foreign presence and to connect the countries of same agenda.

The extensive use of algorithms and programming skills are switching the off-line and online diplomacy towards the hybrid mode of diplomacy with the extreme reachability. In social media different intensive agents different types of algorithms in digital platforms to split in different social ideologies and divide the societies in different beliefs. The social media is one of the best examples to show the use of believe-desire-intension model. The programming codes are to spoil the performance of government through the negative play of narratives.

Data is considered as one of the important components of the emerging economy globally, the exclusive analysis of available data would be the thrust engine for the economic growth. The countries are approaching towards the programmed economy and it will strongly reshape economic and political behaviour of the state. The blended approach of Artificial Intelligence and Diplomacy is an agile approach to do balance of the global geo-strategic powers. The smart application of AI provides the tool to user state by controlling the global-policy-framing, global-diplomacy, global-diplomatic-negotiations and global-data-gathering. It helps then to establish the frontline policies for economy, military, security and business. Technology is always an essential component to recognize the potential areas of future foreign policies and international diplomacy.

New Delhi

(This article has been co-authored with Amit Das who is Head of Centre for AI & Machine Learning, The ICFAI University, Dehradun)