It is obvious that the world is in a digital revolution. However, every sector has become a part of this digitalization in our daily lives. The ever-evolving technology has inevitably affected the field of diplomacy to a great extent. It facilitated and accelerated communication in terms of international relations. It also revealed many new issues and agendas, especially in foreign policy. Each new development in technology has led to a new step in diplomacy. It also brought risks for states in the cyber field. For this reason, digital diplomacy is an area where care and attention should be taken, and precautions should be taken. In this article, the benefits, and harms of diplomacy, which has become digital with the effect of technology, will be discussed.
With digital diplomacy, many new terms and approaches have entered our lives. In a virtual reality world called Metaverse, it is observed that countries take the first steps towards digital diplomacy. For example, Diplomacy Island and Virtual Embassies have been established in Second Life, a virtual life game by creating a virtual reality and avatar, that digital diplomacy follows these trends. Based on this example, it may be possible to say that in the near future such virtual embassies or institutions will perhaps replace the realities of today. Because accessing virtual diplomacy tools is faster, accessible, and inclusive in every aspect. These reasons are also the reasons for the frequent use of online conferences and social media in diplomacy. Online conference examples have been encountered a lot during COVID-19 and have become used in daily life. Larger and diverse audiences could be reached through remote participation. However, according to research and statistics, the most used social media platforms, especially in the field of diplomacy, are Twitter and Facebook. Most heads of state, UN member states and politicians have personal accounts on these platforms, which facilitate communication between diplomats and citizens. As another example, he has become the fifth most followed leader with the interactions he received from the social media after the Ukrainian President Zelensky’s invasion of Ukraine. Audiences make great use of digitalization to learn about current events in the world. Most importantly, it is obvious how critical and necessary the digitalization of diplomacy is, since it is vital that relevant institutions such as ministries and embassies provide quick information to citizens and the world in cases such as wars, diseases, crises, or elections that concern and affect the whole world.
In terms of diplomacy, countries prefer the e-mail method for official communications, while platforms such as Zoom, Skype, Google Workspace, Microsoft Teams are the most frequently used for conferences. Applications or platforms other than these are considered less formal communication tools compared to these. With social media playing such a big role in digital diplomacy, it would not be wrong to say that the field of diplomacy most affected by this issue is Public Diplomacy. In this way, a feature that manages diplomacy and brings those affected by diplomacy closer emerges.
One of the fields of digital diplomacy is consular services. These services are a field that works with data, and many factors, from document collection to the number of personnel, are effective in the efficiency of these services. If digitalization is used to improve the processes of consular services, serious positive effects can be observed. Today, it can be said that digitalization facilitates and accelerates the process, especially in visa procedures.
Moreover, the digitization of diplomacy in the global data collection processes of states makes things relatively easy. Big data, which is a term that we come across a lot today, is also in this field. The impact of digitalization cannot be underestimated in obtaining big data in large-scale research, storing, controlling, analyzing, and reporting these data. For example, for an upcoming election, digitalization can be used to reach an estimated result about which side the citizens will vote for with pre-questionnaire.
Apart from these, creating a global cooperation for an issue that concerns the whole world in general, protecting privacy in this digital world, ensuring that digitalization grows inclusively in the right way, creating a reliable and less cyber-hazardous digital environment for states and helping this technological revolution develop under control. Being digital is also among the goals of digitalization.
While referring these targets, it would be useful to mention the possible risks that exist. In this context, it is a good example of a risk that the privacy of private and confidential documents of states, which are called inviolable, can be violated more, and the WikiLeaks scandal involving the US diplomatic document leak is a real example of this risk. With this event, it is possible to understand the seriousness of digital diplomacy risks. Or, in official relations between companies, there is a risk that the parties are not loyal to each other in digital communications. Or it is very common today that millions of fake social media accounts created cause hate speech, misinformation, or benefit from digitalization for malicious purposes. It is also known that there are sanctions and deterrent penalties according to the importance of all these risks.
As technology continues to grow with today’s Digital Revolution, it is inevitable that digitalization will develop and take up more space in our lives. Diplomacy is also a field that has adapted very closely to digitalization. Some benefits and dangers have emerged as diplomatic services and relations keep up with digitalization. This field, called digital diplomacy, has particularly affected public diplomacy. Social media tools have both facilitated and accelerated communication in diplomatic relations and made it accessible to reach a global audience. Moreover, it has begun to play a major role in countries creating their own image and presence in the digital world and informing the public about global events. The governments of various countries in the world are also aware of this unstoppable effect of digitalization and are trying to take advantage of it. Almost every head of state has an individual social media account and is actively used to reach both local and global audiences. There are risks as well as benefits in this new and current digital dimension. There are many real examples of the consequences when these risks materialize, so diplomacy officials should be very careful when using social media and digital tools. The issue of modernizing diplomacy by improving it and modernizing it should be taken seriously and care should be taken.
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