by Anna Romandash
The use of digital technology is testing the authorities and transforms the international relations, opening new opportunities for the diplomats as well as creating challenges for the traditional mediums.
With e- and Twit-diplomacy, technology redefines the politics and shifts the foreign affairs into the media sphere.
“Every government is struggling to cope with the enormity of the digital change”, says Nik Gowing, international journalist. “They authorities don’t yet understand the influence of digitalization which put those at the bottom in control of the officials”.
So far, the governments have not been affected by the digital politics completely, and the greater changes are yet to come. According to Jan Melissen, co-editor of The Hague Journal of Diplomacy, the end of traditional diplomacy is here.
“With diplomats going online, people can appeal to them directly and expect immediate help.”
Dunja Mijatovic of the OSCE Freedom of the Media states: “Virtual diplomacy is a big challenge because of the huge exposure of the diplomats.
As we are becoming more reachable and transparent, we also become accountable.” Deborah Seward of the UN Department of Public Information agrees: “With the tremendous amount of information, there is a great need for accountability.”
However, as the governments have to use digital tools, the same applies to terrorists and criminal organizations, so the modern devices have become universal for all political relationships, says Taylor Owen, assistant professor in University of British Columbia. “Technologies do not only transform the communication, but the organization and structure of the power,” he adds.
However, the digitalization has still not solved a number of issues regarding democracy and transparency. “Cyberspace is becoming a new battlefield for freedom,” says Dunja Mijatovic.
As many governments use surveillance apps to control the citizens, the authoritarian forces benefit from the digital opportunities as much as the democratic parties. This changes the perceptions people have toward authorities and legitimacy.
“If we are saying that digital activity is a tool for foreign policy, we have to evaluate and compare it to the other tools such as military acts”, says Owen. A prominent example is Russian intervention in Eastern Ukraine where propaganda and digital tools are used to counteract democratic actions.
“We have a gap between the public and the government because it does not react as quickly as the people demands,” says Gowing. “So in case the government remains silent, it increases the doubts and criticism among the audience,” adds he.