If you're seeing this message, it means we're having trouble loading external resources on our website.

If you're behind a web filter, please make sure that the domains *.kastatic.org and *.kasandbox.org are unblocked.

Main content

Ross on the future of digital diplomacy

What we need to do to foster the best in digital diplomacy for the future. Fmr. Senior Advisor for Innovation of the U.S. Dept. of State in conversation with Charlie Firestone of The Aspen Institute.

Want to join the conversation?

No posts yet.

Video transcript

I'm Charlie Firestone the Aspen Institute here with a lacrosse farmer senior advisor for innovation of the u.s. Department of State today we're discussing the toolbox for American diplomacy and specifically digital plomo c or e diplomacy and we now want to look to the future of a diploma see what we need to foster the best in digital diplomacy going forward well first of all going forward it won't be called digital diplomacy it'll just be called diplomacy in the same way in which it was extremely novel for foreign ministries to use radio in the first two decades of the 20th century and then TV in the 1940s 50s and 60s it's very novel to be using these digital tools today and it's going to be yesterday's news tomorrow so I think that first of all the idea of digital diplomacy is something separate apart from diplomacy is going to diminish 20 very soon the biggest change I think that needs to take place in order for to flourish actually has to do with demographics I'm 43 years old I didn't send a receive a single email when I was in college I didn't own a mobile phone until I was 28 and I didn't send a text message or post on social media until I was in my mid late 30s I think that I'm pretty good at using these tools but I'm simply not as good at using them as people who grew up digital and so one of the things that I think is really necessary is for Foreign Ministries that tend to be very hierarchical based on H where you spend your 20s doing clerical work and you spend your 30s in a glorified internship and you get your first job with any real authority in your 40s I think that that has to be accelerated and I think that people in their 20s and 30s need to be given seats at the grown-up table because I think increasingly they're effective use and understanding of these tools needs to be accounted for by people who have been in the Foreign Service for 30 years so I think that there needs to be a greater acceptance of people who are a little bit closer to the innovation and people who have grown digital so we've talked about training diplomats in social media is there going to be a reverse movement to bring adept social media practitioners into the diplomatic Rome there should be one of the problems with the State Department for example is we hire generalists the foreign service exam is largely undifferentiated where if you are a fortune 500 company you don't just sort of have one test for all your employees you say oh we want a communications professional or we want an engineering professional or we want a someone with a lot of executive potential the State Department doesn't do that and part of what that creates is a remarkable level of homogeneity in the skill sets that diplomats have and so one of the things that I think is really important is some differentiation that takes place in recruiting and I do think that if you want to get people who are particularly savvy at digital diplomacy then you've got a preference it when you are hiring people in the same way in which you might preference somebody who's a fluent Arabic speaker a fluent speaker of Mandarin talked a lot about connectivity and networks what about the need for connecting the world's populations is that something that is a policy and part and parcel of how the American government or any government should look at the future of diplomacy so we live in a world of 7.2 billion people of whom about forty percent or internet connected today I think that it's really not the job of the American taxpayer to pay for internet connectivity for any of the four billion people who are disconnected I think there are little things that the United States can do to encourage connectivity but I think that this is a case where market forces are much more powerful and much more important than government forces now throughout the world people are connected by mobile phones in one form or another room that's you mentioned billions of people there are six billion mobile phones on planet Earth yes and 7 billion people but some people have more than one phone yuppers but how do we account for the advent the rise of mobility as an element of digital diplomacy and diplomacy going forward i think that the rise of mobility unchained a diplomat from her desk and this relates to the earlier question about speed so in addition to diplomacy necessarily taking faster it now is necessarily more mobile the very idea of a workday being bounded by a nine to five and being tethered to an office is being diminished to near zero and it's interestingly to me to see foreign services that get this sprint ahead of others that don't write well across