Nowadays hardly a day goes by without reading or hearing about the importance of digitalization. There are more and more projects that follow the development of digitalization, and it seems that the Republic of Serbia has recently recognized its importance and is actively involved in numerous projects that simplify the everyday life of citizens, the work of state administration bodies and business entities through the use of digital technologies.
As a simple explanation, digitalization is the transfer of analog forms of an object, be it a text, sound or image into a digital form. We are going to try to answer whether and to what extent traditional diplomacy, whose main functions are the representation, communication and negotiation follows the trends of digitalization.
In the world of digital diplomacy, these new paradigms of traditional diplomacy, changes are noticeable on a daily basis. Initially, digital diplomacy was seen as another communication tool. To be more precise the diplomats were given a new channel, in the form of social networks, for communicating their messages and the views of the state that they represent. Television, print media and radio have not become part of history, only the diplomatic offensive field has been transferred to the online area.
This type of communication was very interesting as a relatively inexpensive method for national branding (image management and improvement of a bad reputation), for foreign policy analysis, attracting (the) foreign investors, communicating the national interests, and especially for the crisis communication. It can also be effectively used to counter radical and hostile online narratives for which there are numerous examples worldwide.
The ratio between the invested money and the final result could be a well-enough motive for countries to seriously invest in digital diplomacy. It would be wrong to reduce it only to social networks and communication within them. In this regard, digital diplomacy has lately also been seen as the process of the digital transformation of the Foreign Ministries’ work.
This process is carried out by the supervision and assistance of the government’s centralized teams in charge of digitalization. Ministries thus receive secured intranet networks, messenger groups for faster and easier communication, as well as the responsive websites that can be used for a temporary passport issuing in case of loss of one’s own in a foreign country.
Also, the process goes further, and in response to certain crises such as terrorist attacks and natural disasters, SMS or push notifications are being quickly activated, in which way the embassies quickly inform their citizens about the nearest “aid points“ or telephone numbers they can reach in order to get help or information.
Opponents of diplomacy digitalization and its online migration, very often cite negative comments to which they have been exposed by very organized teams of “bots” or fake news spreading. Also, very often as a good “how not to” communication example, they use effective but rather undiplomatic appearances of the Twitter diplomacy of the US president.
However, the world is already heading very fast in the direction of the blockchain, VR and AR technologies implementation in the field of foreign ministries’ work. Creating specialized digital teams within the government leads to more efficient coordination and makes the overall process of digitalization even more transparent and simple. New technologies are also raising new questions such is the debate over the need to amend the Vienna Conventions of the 1960s in order to better address the challenges of the internet and cybersecurity.
With the belief that the situation in this field will improve in our country, we conclude that the global trend of the digital evolution of traditional diplomacy is an unstoppable process. And when it comes to evolution, let’s remind ourselves that Charles Darwin said that not the strongest or the most intelligent are those who survive, but those who are the ablest to adapt to change.