Why digital diplomacy matters

Today’s world is continually advancing. Israel is a front-runner in this technological revolution.

By YUVAL ROTEM
October 16, 2018 20:47
2 minute read.
Two women holding their children

THE MINISTRY of Foreign Affairs has an online medical platform with calls coming in from Iraq, Saudi Arabia, Jordan and other countries that allows people to connect to Israeli doctors, free of charge. (photo credit: REUTERS)

 
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Imagine this – Alia, a teenage girl struggling with diabetes in Iraq, has run out of ideas. She needs advice on how to confront the side effects that come with her condition, but she lacks the means necessary to get that advice, and the doctors she could speak with are too far away. She is at the end of the rope.

Just before giving up, she discovers an online platform, created in collaboration with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA) that allows her to connect to Israeli doctors, free of charge. She opens up the chat window with an Arabic-speaking doctor, and she finally gets the advice she needs to live a productive, safe, and healthy life. Alia is an imaginary girl, but the online medical platform is real, and calls are coming in from Iraq, Saudi Arabia, Jordan and other countries.

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Things like this can and are happening all around us. Using technology, Israel reaches out to new audiences across borders that were once impossible to cross, and creates personal connections that allow us to create a future of cooperation and partnership.
Today’s world is continually advancing. Israel is a front-runner in this technological revolution. Because we have been open to challenging the status quo, we have been able to transition into an even more efficient, productive, and helpful country. We are not the only country embarking on this journey. Different countries around the world are beginning to realize how to take advantage of the endless possibilities that living in the digital age provides us. We look forward to working with the international community, particularly in the realm of diplomacy and international relations.

Make no mistake – digital diplomacy does not and cannot – replace classic diplomacy. If anything, the case is the opposite. As someone who meets foreign politicians and leading bureaucrats on a daily basis, I value the immense potential of personal relationships, face-to-face conversations and on-site visits, as a basis for real understanding and a sharing of ideas. The digital world cannot aim to replace these experiences. However, using digital diplomacy in tandem with classic diplomacy brings an immense potential to bridge differences, reach people and form partnerships.

At the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, we strive to be leaders in this world of digital diplomacy. Israel’s MFA was recently voted the No. 4 best connected in the world. With 220 million views on our Arabic-language platforms and 1.6 million Facebook followers, it is clear why digital diplomacy is allowing us to grow exponentially.

Israel has always embraced innovation and technology; our country is the only child of a demanding Jewish mother – necessity. The need to be inventive was a fight for survival, and in many ways, it still is. By combining the powers of classic diplomacy and those of the digital diplomacy, we are capable of reaching new audiences in a manner and depth that were unthinkable just a decade ago.
But this is not a lone endeavor. To be successful, we need international cooperation. Therefore, we constantly seek dialogues with other countries, so that we can build a better future for everyone, together, one web code at a time.

The author is director-general of Israel’s MFA.


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