The NewsHour interviews Alec J. Ross on digital diplomacy and 21st Century Statecraft

What do State Department officials mean when they talk about ” 21st Century Statecraft?” The PBS Newshour’s digital correspondent, Hari Sreenivasan, sat down with Alec J. Ross, senior adviser for innovation at the State Department, to learn how technology is being leveraged to accomplish foreign policy goals. Sreenivasan subsequently published an excellent post on diplomacy and 21st Century statecraft at the Rundown, the Newshour blog, that includes the video below:

As Sreenivasan notes, the State Department has been rapidly moving forward in its use of technology, as reported in Radar on applying technology for Internet freedom. The question of whether the US should support Internet freedom through technology is a complex one, and deserves serious scrutiny as it moves forward, as evidenced by the Haystack fiasco.

What does 21st Century Statecraft mean? Sreenivasan takes a swing at reporting on Ross’s take:

In light of the seismic shifts taking place in how information and people interact and engage with one another, Ross says a broadening of the practice of statecraft is necessary. Going forward, that means using a balance of soft and hard power to enable and support relationships between non-state actors, and between representatives of governments.The prescription calls for far more than giving diplomats Twitter training, or simply using social media to push “the message” out. It is also about connecting people to resources efficiently and effectively, from NGOs to governments to people in need of aid.

In addition to spending money on new forms of digital diplomacy, the State Department has more often used its clout to convene bright minds from the private sector and the NGO world in a series of Tech@State conferences. They have included gatherings to share ideas on leveraging mobile technology, finding and empowering technology assistance in Haiti’s recovery and, more recently, rethinking Civil Society.

Sreenivasan included a host of excellent links to learn more about 21st Century statecraft, including:

  • An essay in Foreign Affairs entitled “America’s Edge” (requires one-time free registration) by Anne-Marie Slaughter. It was published around the same time that the former Dean of the Woodrow Wilson school at Princeton University was appointed as the new Director of Policy Planning at the State Department.
  • A essay by Eric Shmidt and Jared Cohen of Google titled The Digital Disruption, also in Foreign Affairs, which discusses the challenges facing diplomacy. As Sreenivasan notes, Cohen recently moved to Google from the State Department, where he had been working with Ross on 21st Century Statecraft. The New York Times Magazine covered their digital diplomacy efforts this this past summer.
  • Sam Dupont of NDN has gathered a list of 21st Century statecraft initiatives.

The Newshour has been extending its coverage into Gov 2.0 since Sreenivasan reported on the Gov 2.0 Expo and Summit earlier this year. For more of its past coverage, check out their conversation with Todd Park, the Chief Technology Officer of HHS, and excerpts from their conversation with White House Chief Technology Officer Aneesh Chopra and federak CIO Vivek Kundra. It’s a significant evolution to see Gov 2.0 be discussed on the Newshour, CBS or Dan Rather reports. Whether it’s enough to raise national awareness of open government challenges, success or failure is itself an open question.

About Alex Howard

Alexander B. Howard is a DC-based a technology writer and editor. Previously, he was the Washington Correspondent at O'Reilly Media, where he covered the voices, technologies and issues that matter in the intersection of government, technology and society. If you're feeling social, you can follow him on Twitter, like him on Facebook or circle him on Google Plus In addition to corresponding for the O’Reilly Radar, he has contributed to the Huffington Post, Govfresh, Mashable, ReadWriteWeb, National Journal, The Atlantic, CBS News and Forbes. He graduated from Colby College with a bachelor's degree in biology and sociology. Currently, he is a resident of the District of Columbia, where he lives with his greyhound, wife, power tools, plants and growing collection of cast iron pans, many of which are frequently used to pursue his passion for good cooking.

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