Digital Diplomacy

Picture: Michele Asselin for The New York TimesThe New York Times recently published an article following two men who are using social media and telecommunication technology to change the way diplomacy is done. The article tracks the lives and ideas of Alex Ross and Jared Cohen, both of which are State Department employees. Here’s an excerpt of some of their developments:

It is fair to say that Ross and Cohen are obsessed with mobile phones; they speak at length about telemedicine, tele-education and something called telejustice (the details of which they haven’t quite worked out yet). At an early-morning meeting in Palo Alto with mobile-banking experts, they looked for ways to expand a successful pilot program used to pay policemen via mobile phones in Afghanistan to another conflict zone in Congo. In both cases, as truckloads or planeloads of cash meant to pay policemen dwindled on their way from the capital cities to the provinces, so did the chances for lawful governance. Mobile banking is well established in places like Kenya, and cellphones are ubiquitous worldwide, even in poorly developed regions. Here was a way to use technology to address diplomacy, development and security concerns at once: direct payments to officers’ phones, which would be transferable to the phones of their distant families, could become a powerful tool for stability, even in Congo. Or at least that was the hope.

Read the full article here.

Caleb Gallifant


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