Diplomacy and Social Networks

Article published on March 1, 2010
community published
Article published on March 1, 2010
Diplomacy and Social Networks: A Greek Blogger’s Experience in the U.S. Post that first appeared on Mosaiko.gr. Author: Mosaiko Editor Re-posted here with permission. This nice guy, Alec Ross, used to be a teacher in Baltimore. In 2000, along with three colleagues, he founded the NGO called “One Economy” in a basement.
Their main concern was to be able to build bridges between uneducated women and educated youth (familiar with new technologies). Within three years of starting its operation, the NGO expanded to 91 countries and four continents.

Barack Obama took notice of Alec in 2008 and placed him on his committee for Technology, Media and Telecommunications during his election campaign. The next step, following his victory, was for Alec to be appointed as a Senior Adviser for the State Department at the center for Innovation for Hilary Clinton’s office (a section created especially for him.) He is in charge of applying Social Networks and New Technologies to serve foreign policy and U.S. Diplomacy. In a press conference for us, Alec said many interesting things:

-“The era of the old, traditional diplomats, with the ties and white collars, standing in front of the flag belongs to the past. Nowadays, diplomacy is applied to individuals in front of a computer screen and who can access the entire planet.”

-“When I visited Congo for the first time, one of the purest countries in the world, I realized that the Internet was non-existent, with only 3% of the population being online. However, as I got off the plane I saw that there were three mobile phone companies, ready for me to connect with them – with millions of subscribers. I said then “here, this is the Diplomacy platform needed to get in touch with the people in Congo.”

-“Two hours following the earthquake in Haiti, I got the idea of “Text Haiti,” where with a single message every American could contribute $10, by sending a message with the word “Haiti” to a four-digit number. I admit that it is not the most sophisticated thing I have ever created. But the truth is that we managed to raise $34 million within a few weeks. So it was the most effective thing I had ever created.”

-“The issue of freedom of expression for journalists had always been around. Now, with social networks an additional need has been created: protecting the freedom of expression for citizen-journalists, bloggers, Facebook and Twitter users, who transmit news from their countries without being professional reporters.” -“Many people believe that large Social Networks all serve American interests. Do you really believe that I can control Facebook’s Zuckerberg or Twitter and Youtube creators? I wish, but these guys are far richer than I am and all they are concerned about is their business interests. And that’s what they should be doing…”

-“Let’s not talk about the crisis in the media field. It is not a crisis. It’s just that things are changing, and this is a transitional period to a new state of things. so we don’t need to save them by throwing in money, like we did with the banks and the automobile industry. They themselves need to come up with a new business model in order to adjust to this new era.”

Athens Voice’s question to Alec Ross was the following: “Since I’m coming from a country that gave birth to democracy, and you come from a country that gave birth to the Internet, and while we both have IP addresses, do you believe that e-voting is just around the corner?”

His response was “I wish it’s going to be like this, but we still need time to get there. First, we need to maintain a sense of security for such a procedure – because e-voting could be the hacker’s playground! This needs to start at an experimental level, where security is not at stake and can be controlled. So, don’t expect that the next U.S. President is going to be elected from the Internet.”

Watch the Q&A at the video bellow: