Welcome to the era of tech diplomacy


Denmark and France eye a new generation of Diplomacy 3.0 ambassadors! Who’s next?

Earlier this month, WIRED featured Casper Klynge, Denmark’s new ambassador to the tech industry, possibly the world’s first-ever envoy to Silicon Valley and technology companies.

Explaining the novelty, Chris Stokel-Walker of Wired writes: “What’s different is who he’s lobbying” — as opposed as another country, like a bilateral ambassador would do, or an international organization for multilateral ambassadors.

From the time the world’s first permanent ambassador — the Spanish representative to England, who took up his post in 1487 — established residence in another country until today, they have spent most of their working days brokering relationships with national governments (or supranational bodies such as the United Nations).

“Now Klynge is attending to a small corner of a country, and a multi-trillion-dollar business sector,” Wired points out.

The idea of a tech ambassador is certainly new and Denmark, a country that has become an important tech hub in Europe, is trying to innovate the diplomatic space with a new ambassador role that relates and engages with what are now key players in foreign policy.

“Just as we engage in a diplomatic dialogue with countries, we also need to establish and prioritize comprehensive relations with tech actors, such as Google, Facebook, Apple, and so on,” Danish Foreign Minister Anders Samuelsen told The Washington Post in February.

Fun fact: the role was nicknamed ‘Google Ambassador’ at the beginning.

“The idea is, we see a lot of companies and new technologies that will in many ways involve and be part of everyday life of citizens in Denmark,” he continued.

And some [of these companies] also have a size that is comparable to nations.

“These companies are also policy actors, and indeed, foreign policy actors in their own right,” Klynge told GovInsider in September.

The interest from other countries around Klynge’s new role and posting seems to be quite high and, in an interview with Politico, he said: “Judging from the interest from other countries, I’ll probably not be the last one.”

And he was right. France too has now appointed its own tech ambassador.

French president Emmanuel Macron and his cabinet have named David Martinon “ambassador for digital affairs,” as announced by the French Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

“This important decision gives Mr. Martinon jurisdiction over the digital issues that the Ministry deals with: international negotiations on cybersecurity, governance of the Internet and Internet networks, freedom of expression on the Internet, intellectual property issues related to the Internet, support for the export operations of digital companies, and France’s participation in the Open Government Partnership in conjunction with Etalab [the French task force for open data],” the Ministry announced.

A key priority will also be building and nurturing “a direct dialogue with major American digital platforms on combating the use of the Internet for terrorist purposes.”

The ministry explains that the “task is in line with the guidelines adopted by the G7 in Taormina last June, as well as the French-British action plan of July 2017 and requests made to these platforms by the French President and the British and Italian Prime Ministers at the High-Level Meeting on Preventing Terrorist Use of the Internet (held on September 20 in New York as part of the UN General Assembly).”

Is this the road towards Diplomacy 3.0?

“Diplomacy is more complicated and global challenges require multistakeholder cooperation and negotiation in order to construct solutions,” told us Ambassador Daniel Sepulveda, who served as Deputy Assistant Secretary of State and U.S. Coordinator for International Communications and Information Policy in the Obama Administration. “This is part of the evolution of global governance.”

In my book on Digital Diplomacy: Conversations on Innovation in Foreign Policy (Rowman Littlefield, 2015), I wrote: “Diplomacy 3.0 is not about technology or innovation. It looks beyond the use of social media. Diplomacy 3.0 is about the evolution of foreign policy into a networked environment where state and non-state are horizontally interacting with each other.”

Diplomacy 3.0 is shaping itself as a true startup environment, in which disruption shall not have a negative connotation. It is aimed at hacking and reinventing diplomacy while creating organic, collaborative ways to actuate foreign policy priorities.