The advent of information and communication technology has induced various effects that have changed the way people relate and interact with one another alongside how businesses are conducted globally. Diplomacy is not exempted since it has equally been affected by information and communication technology. The drastic development of ICT has contributed to a dramatic change in the nature and conduct of diplomacy and diplomatic services in the present day. ICT is mighty communication and collaboration apparatus that greatly impact diplomacy. Therefore, this paper discusses how ICT has affected diplomacy, focusing on both its positive and negative effects on diplomacy.
ICT has positively affected diplomacy by providing new communication tools used by the global actors to promote diplomacy and public relations. Advanced information technologies have offered new communication apparatus that altered existing rankings and power relationships among global actors. Additionally, it has encouraged diplomatic communications, which has consequently affected how diplomats engage in arrangements dictated by the trends in globalization, global economy, digitization, and trans-nationalization (Pilegaard, 2017). Besides, information and communication technology hold the key to soft power, making it possible to directly appeal to multiple actors. The communication tools offered by ICT also impact diplomacy by promoting public diplomacy that allows a country to secure another country’s consent or support by altering the will of a significant segment of its population.
Likewise, ICT positively impacts diplomacy by triggering and encouraging the use of database documents and submission, as opposed to the age of conventional diplomacy when communication was based on formal notes and circulars. ICT has also made it easy to share more informal information of lower importance, making the diplomatic team more coherent (Pilegaard, 2017). Similarly, ICT has positively affected diplomacy by promoting virtual representation either in the form of information services or virtual envoys; thus, this, in turn, enhances diplomatic relationships between various countries and actors. The real-world examples of the positive impacts of ICT on diplomacy include but are not limited to the realms of digitization in circular economy. There are three main realms of digitalization in consular diplomacy:
- Automation of consular activities: It involves activities like visa-issuing processes
- Interaction with diaspora and nationals: This involves issuing passports, certificates and other documents; thus, this in turn enhances diplomatic relationship between nations.
- Crisis management: During major natural disasters or in conflict and security crises digital tools are often used to assist nationals, coordinate relief and operations, and providing humanitarian assistance consequently promoting diplomatic relations between nations.
Nonetheless, ICT negatively affects diplomacy by making diplomats deal with a new set of digital policy issues when promoting the interests of their countries. In most counties, digital foreign policy is emerging; hence, this poses challenges to the diplomats since they must adhere to the new foreign policies to enhance their diplomatic relationship and representation of their countries (Pilegaard, 2017). Also, ICT negatively affects diplomacy by promoting cybersecurity challenges and making countries to be vulnerable to cyber-attack by cybercriminals. Cyber security issues like hacking and sharing confidential data with unauthorized people have remained key challenges associated with the ICT. These challenges impact diplomacy, consequently impacting the diplomatic relationship between counties. Cyber security often makes countries lose their trust in one another, thereby affecting their diplomatic relationships. Likewise, the real-life example of the adverse effect of ICT on diplomacy involves cybersecurity. For instance, NATO’s declaration that it is a fourth military operational domain on top of the land, water, and sea created a challenge of identifying a common understanding on the applicability of concepts like state responsibility and right to self-defense. This, in turn, negatively affects the diplomatic relationship between different nations, which are NATO affiliates.
ICT induces both positive and negative effects on diplomacy. It offers communication tools that enable diplomats to share information easily and quickly. Furthermore, it encourages directory documents and submission, which promote safe storage and dissemination of information. Despite the positive benefits, ICT adversely impacts diplomacy by making diplomats deal with new sets of foreign policy issues. It is also associated with cyber security issues like hacking that negatively affect the diplomatic relations between countries. Regardless of the negative effects, the positive effects outweigh the negative impacts, and it would be concluded that ICT is beneficial to diplomacy.
Pilegaard, J. (2017). Virtually Virtual? The New Frontiers of Diplomacy. The Hague Journal of Diplomacy, 12(4), 316-336.