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U.S. Department of State

Diplomacy in Action

Modernizing Diplomacy: U.S. Foreign Policy in an Age of Connection Technologies

Fact Sheet
Bureau of Public Affairs
April 24, 2012


“Just as the Internet has changed virtually every aspect of how people worldwide live, learn, consume and communicate, connection technologies are changing the strategic context for diplomacy in the 21st century.”

– Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton

For Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, modernizing U.S. diplomacy is a strategic imperative. The widespread diffusion of technologies such as broadband Internet, social media and mobile phones requires updating our policies and practices. Connection technologies now increase our impact across the range of diplomatic activities, from public diplomacy to commercial outreach, from disaster response to democracy promotion.

Supporting U.S. Values

Building on “The White House International Strategy for Cyberspace,” the State Department is promoting policies that support our values and objectives in cyberspace:

  • Internet Freedom: The free flow of information online empowers individuals and strengthens societies, but some governments censor and use surveillance to chill free expression and arrest dissidents merely for the opinions they express. In addition to promoting Internet freedom globally, the State Department and the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) financially support human rights activists in this area.
  • Internet Governance: Preserving an open, free, and secure Internet requires a stable and effective system of Internet governance. We are committed to the decentralized, “multi-stakeholder” model that includes governments, businesses, academia, and civil society. This has proven capable of solving technical and policy problems to address issues, such as data privacy and protection, intellectual property and taxation.
  • Cybersecurity: We are strengthening cybersecurity globally by: 1) ensuring that law enforcement agencies have tools to investigate cybercrime and deal with electronic evidence; 2) promoting enactment of cybercrime laws; and 3) creating mechanisms like the G8 24/7 network to ensure international cooperation.
  • Access and Development: Increasing access to connection technologies promotes development by enhancing economic growth, governance, education, health, anti-corruption, and citizen journalism. The State Department is working to improve access, particularly for women and other underserved populations.
  • Open Government: President Obama and Brazilian President Rousseff launched the Open Government Partnership (OGP) to advance global progress on good governance. OGP brings together technology companies, civil society, and government leaders to share innovative practices that promote transparency and accountability, fight corruption and energize civic participation.

Modernizing the Tools of Diplomacy

The State Department offers U.S. diplomats tools and training to increase their impact in a connected world, for example:

  • Travel alerts: The smartphone-based Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP) enables U.S. citizens living or traveling abroad to register with the State Department for assistance in the event of emergencies.
  • Human rights and disaster response: Social media tools enable citizen engagement in Syria and following earthquakes in Haiti and Japan. consolidates human rights information across the U.S. government.
  • Economics and business: Web-based meetings and conference calls enable real-time dialogue between our embassies and Ambassadors and the U.S. business community.
  • Education and culture: In Tunisia, more than half a million people signed up for a Department-sponsored program offering English language learning via mobile phone.
  • Gender equality: The Department has partnered with the Global System for Mobile Communication Association (GSMA) to bridge the gender gap in mobile phone ownership.
  • Public diplomacy: A Persian-language Google+ hangout has enabled the Department’s spokesperson to answer questions from inside Iran delivered via prominent journalists.

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