Digital Public Diplomacy – when Politics and Technology Intersect

I first heard the word ‘Digital Diplomacy‘ in a training at DiploFoundation in Geneva in 2008. The concept was not new per se but there was a general skepticism about its potential to complement or transform conventional diplomacy as we knew it.

Digital diplomacy, also referred to as Digiplomacy and eDiplomacy, has been defined as the use of the Internet and new information communication technologies to help achieve diplomatic objectives. The definition focuses on the interplay between internet and diplomacy, ranging from Internet driven-changes in the environment in which diplomacy is conducted to the emergence of new topics on diplomatic agendas such as cybersecurity, privacy but also a country’s image building or redressing. Clearly, Digital Diplomacy offers opportunities while also bringing new challenges.

In this article, I compare and contrast recent uses of Digital Diplomacy by two countries (Ethiopia and Switzerland) for different purposes. Despite being at different ends of the democratic, development and connectivity continuum, both countries have strived to make effective use of digital tools for Public Diplomacy ends. By examining the Swiss Digital Foreign Policy Strategy 2021–2024 and Ethiopian Government’s responses to counter series of misinformation and disinformation campaign during and after the operations in the Northern Region of the country.