Saturday, March 25, 2017

How Does Big Data Change Diplomacy?

Ronald van Loon,

Image (not from article) from

The online world is allowing faster, round-the-clock access to societal behavior across the country and around the globe. Today, people not only use their mobile devices and social networks to share what they think, but also to organize opposition movements.
Everything that people do, both online and offline, leaves a digital trace. This presents the government and diplomats with a unique opportunity to leverage on Big Data and use it to devise better foreign policies and increase their understanding of national and global issues.  However, to seize the opportunity, diplomats must learn how to navigate through the complex Big Data landscape and derive valuable insights from the unstructured data available to them.
Using Big Data to Visualize, Analyze, and Forecast Critical Issues
To better understand the usefulness of big data in public diplomacy, it is important to have a look at a couple of examples of how Big Data has influenced, and sometimes triggered, certain national and global events.
How Cambridge Analytica Helped Trump Win
Donald Trump hired Cambridge Analytica specialists in June 2016. The Big Data specialists identified that they could determine an individual’s race, sexuality, and commitment to Republican or Democratic party by a quick analysis of just 69 likes. Using this information, sent over 180 thousand personalised messages to the voters on the third day of debates between Clinton and Trump. Result? They were able to maximize the number of votes Trump received from rural residents, get 80 percent of Facebook votes, and minimize the electoral activity of African American. Put simply, they helped Trump win.
Using Big Data to Map Ukraine’s Protest Violence
Big Data analysts used three different tools to map a complete and accurate picture of the unrest in Ukraine. They collected data from Google’s BigQuery System, CartoDB, and Global Database of Events, Language, and Tone (GDELT) to develop a map that was based on millions of news articles from around the world on events in Ukraine. The map featured color-coded dots to show the location and intensity of conflicts.
Using Big Data in Public Diplomacy — Challenges and the Way Forward
There is no denying the fact that the use of Big Data constitutes a lucrative opportunity for everyone, including authorities and diplomats. However, there are certain challenges that the government and diplomats face when it comes to using the insights obtained from Big Data in diplomacy. These challenges can be divided into two categories:
– Technological — There are security-related restrictions on what kind of software can be run on computers used by diplomats.
– Behavioral — A report published by the US Advisory Commission on Public Diplomacy suggests that there is a lack of interest among the officials regarding the use of Big Data in diplomacy.
In order to overcome the challenges, diplomats should focus on fostering a culture of research in order to make the optimal use of Big Data. The following measures can be taken to encourage and enable diplomats to use Big Data tools in order to obtain valuable, actionable data.
– Diplomats should be provided with a hands-on experience of using Big Data tools.
– The essential skills required to benefit from Big Data should be taught in universities.
– Competitions like ‘Data for Development’ and ‘Reinventing Public Diplomacy Through Games’ should be organized to develop a research-driven culture and to generate out of the box ideas on how to use Big Data in public diplomacy.
From planning and designing programs to forecasting important events, the insights obtained from Big Data can be used in a multitude of ways by diplomats. However, to realize the true potential of data, the officials must focus on establishing a culture of data-driven public diplomacy by investing in the latest Big Data tools, as well as in skills of diplomats.

Pak-US ties: a glimpse into history

Daud Khattak,

Image (not from article)  from, with caption: Jackie Kennedy and her sister ride a camel in Karachi in 1962 | Photo credit: JFK Library Archives

At a time when Pakistan-US relations are possibly at the lowest ebb for a number of reasons, few people remember or even know of the peak days when a US first lady visited Pakistan and extensively travelled across the country to a rousing welcome by thousands of men, women and children 55 years ago.
From Karachi to Lahore, Rawalpindi and Peshawar, people were seen lining the roads and streets, waving, cheering and cherishing their country’s friendship with the United States.
Jacqueline Lee Bouvier Kennedy, the highly cultured and well-educated wife of the charismatic John Fitzgerald Kennedy, the 35th US president, was the last first lady visiting this country which was on a trajectory of growth and prosperity in the first 20 years of its emergence on the world’s map.
Jacqueline Kennedy’s fairy-tale Pakistan visit from March 21-26, 1962 was reciprocal to a trip of the United States by President Muhammad Ayub Khan in July 1961 where, President Kennedy, as a show of warmth, greeted his Pakistani guest at the airport instead of the White House.
Soon after taking charge of the White House, one of President Kennedy’s several challenges was to win over the support of and keep away the two freshly-independent South Asian states — India and Pakistan — away from the expanding shadows of communism in the region. And no one could have performed the job better than Jacqueline Kennedy, who had already become a face of US public diplomacy. ...
Although numerous Pakistani governments and heads of governments have developed close ties with the United States and its leadership in the days that followed, Jackie’s visit was unprecedented in terms of its appeal to the people of Pakistan and the power of public diplomacy where pro-American sentiments in the then West Pakistan were touching the peak. ...
Although Pakistan and the United States have undergone various stages of ties from security and military to economic and hardcore diplomacy, the only ties having lasting impact are established through public diplomacy and not through huge sums of money in military assistance or state welfare projects.

Ambassador: Culture helps develop public diplomacy

image from

MINSK, 24 March (BelTA) – Culture helps develop public diplomacy and brings countries closer together, Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of Ecuador to Belarus Carlos Humberto Larrea Davila said at the opening of an exhibition at the embassy on 24 March, BelTA has learned.

The exhibition features 60 works by six Ecuadorian artists and two Belarusians. This is the sixth exhibition in the Meetings series themed around the social significance of music. Carlos Humberto Larrea Davila believes that music, in the same way as the art of painting, helps express things that are difficult to say in words. “Every painting conveys the spirit of peoples with the help of lines, colors, forms and textures,” he said.

The exhibition showcases works of Ecuadorian artists Edwin Andrade, Carlos Monsalve, Mesias Onate, Manuel Trikaliotis, Fausto Feran, and Pedro Valdivieso. The works are filled with light and bright colors. The exhibition also presents paintings by Belarusian artists Yuri Podolin and Gennady Shakovets characterized by special expressiveness.

Honorary Consul of Ecuador to Belarus Viktor Atroshchik, who is a big fan of the art of Ecuadorian artists in particular and Latin American artists in general, said that in 2017 Belarusian artists will tour Ecuador where they will be able to get acquainted with the country, its amazing nature. An idea has been put forward to hold in Belarus a large-scale exhibition of works by Latin American artists whose distinctive style is of great interest to the audience and art critics.

Application opens for John Paul Usman Award for civic leadership

2016 Mandela Washington Fellow
The Public Affairs Section (PAS) of the U.S. Embassy Abuja, has announces a notice of funding opportunity for the John Paul Usman Award for Civic Leadership. The purpose of this grant is to memorialise the late John Paul Usman, 2016 Mandela Washington Fellow, by funding project(s) submitted by the Young African Initiative (YALI) Network members from Nigeria, focusing on children’s rights issues and pace building.
PAS encourages applications from YALI Network members or their organisations located in Nigeria, including registered not-for-profit and civil society/non-governmental organisations with at least two years of programming experience and individuals with two years of not-for-profit, project management, or education; experience.
Though this opportunity is open to RLC alumni, alumni of the Mandela Washington Fellowship program or their organisations are not eligible to apply for the award, which will be open till April 14, 2017. Meanwhile, grant proposals must demonstrate how projects support these thematic areas.  Any project outside these areas will not be considered.
Proposals should be submitted online to U.S. Embassy Abuja at the following email address: using the attached proposal and budget templates. Applicants are also required to fill out the attached SF-424 form and submit with their application, which must be in English only; final grant agreements will also be concluded in English. Applications that do not use the proposal and budget templates and do not submit the SF-424 will not be considered.
Depending on the response, U.S. Embassy Abuja will attempt to notify those proposals not selected. Proposals will be accepted until April 14, 2017 and with positive responses issued by April 30, 2017. However, the application form requires a DUNS number, a unique nine-digit identification number. DUNS Number assignment is free for organisations required to register with the federal government for grants.
However, public diplomacy grant funding from the U.S. government may not be used for any commercial, for-profit activity or business operations. All events, conferences, workshops, training, or other engagement activities must be free of charge to participants and audiences.

Thursday, March 23, 2017

A Strategic Perspective on "Information Warfare" & "Counter-Propaganda"

Prepared remarks by Matthew Armstrong given before the Emerging Threats & Capabilities Subcommittee of the House Armed Services Committee on Wednesday, March 15, 2017; from linkedin

image (not from entry) from

There are several challenges hindering our credibility and the ability to be effective in today’s environment.
The first is that our messages and actions are generally dis-unified [sic]. We have a competitive advantage in terms of resources, people, skills, and scale, yet our various government departments and agencies are organized in such a way that makes coordination nearly impossible.
Beyond the obvious, this includes failing to understand, coordinate, or support programs that may develop and strengthen local defenses, even inoculation, against adversarial influence. Lesser known examples include Fish & Wildlife Services helping game wardens in Africa, exchange programs [JB emphasis], and U.S. Navy tenders helping local harbor masters and mechanics. ...
The lack of coordination and bureaucratic cultural divides contribute to our second challenge, which is that our response to adversarial propaganda is almost invariably reactionary [sic -- JB note: Does the author mean "reactive"?]. When our adversaries explain their actions to the world or make claims about us, we find ourselves scrambling to prove them wrong. This keeps us on our heels and requires us to overcome the narrative set by others. It also means limited consideration of the psychological effect of actions, which the Chinese appear to be overcoming in their recent reorganization of their Cyberspace Operations Forces. ...

Call for Applications: Public Diplomacy Officer at the Embassy of Sweden in Skopje

The Embassy of Sweden in Skopje is looking to hire a Public Diplomacy Officer on a temporary basis until the current employee returns from an extended period of leave (minimum one year).
Tasks and responsibilities
Develop, extend and enhance the impact of the Embassy's digital communications and public diplomacy work.
Contribute to Embassy activities through the use of integrated and strategic public communication, mainly through social media but also with TV stations, newspapers and magazines.
Coordinate social media activities with the Swedish Ministry for Foreign Affairs and arrange promotion activities with the Swedish Institute.
Necessary qualifications
Native proficiency in English and Macedonian (written and spoken) is required. Knowledge of the Swedish and/or Albanian languages is a merit. Excellent communication, interpersonal and networking skills are required.
Master's degree in communications/PR, marketing, political communication or equivalent is a merit.
Energetic, engaged, outward and creative personality. Interest in and knowledge about Sweden and the EU. Well acquainted with Macedonian media, politics, culture and society.
Well acquainted with the social media landscape of Macedonia (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram etc.) and very skilled in the usage of various social media platforms.
Confident in working strategically with communication according to defined target groups, purposes, messages and effective choice of means of communication.
Extensive local network, especially in the fields of media and culture.
Knowledge of graphic design and organization of public events.
Send a motivation letter (maximum one page) together with CV (maximum two pages, including contact details for three references) to specifying in the subject line: ”Application: Public Diplomacy Officer”. Deadline: 26 March 2017. If you have questions about the position, please get in touch with Anton Irekvist, Deputy Head of Mission at the Embassy of Sweden:

FORTUNE COOKIE: The showpiece of gastro diplomacy

Sourish Bhattacharyya,

In a world where divisive politics rules the news, imagine people following discrete religions, speaking different languages and having varied ethnicities united by the adhesive power of food.

On March 21 night, 2,000 chefs across 150 nations in five continents served a French dinner at their restaurants in a one-of-a-kind celebration of a country that is synonymous with gastronomy and haute cuisine.

India, in fact, was No. 3 on the crowded world list of Gout France, or Good [JB note: strange translation of the French word for "taste"] France, which is the name of the initiative being steered by the French Foreign Ministry with the legendary Michelin multi-starred chef Alain Ducasse since 2015. 

On the Gout France night, chefs such as Priyam Chatterjee (pictured) wear French national colours
On the Gout France night, chefs such as Priyam Chatterjee (pictured) wear French national colours

As many as 66 Indian restaurants, including 14 in Delhi-NCR, participated in Gout France this year. 'The common point of this event,' in the words of Ducasse, 'is generosity, sharing and the love of what is beautiful and tastes good.' 

It draws its inspiration, incidentally, from the doyen French chefs, Auguste Escoffier, who launched the Dîners d'Épicure (Epicurean Dinners) initiative - the same menu, the same day, in several world cities and aimed at as many diners as possible - in 1912. All this information set me thinking. 

French cuisine may be the world's gold standard for good food, but Indian gastronomy today is ranked right after French, Japanese, Italian and Chinese, although the Spaniards may like to consider themselves to be ahead of us. 

Yet culinary tourism is not even listed as one of the 20 objectives set by the Ministry of Tourism for itself. It is time for us to turn the tide, take inspiration from a global event of the scale of Gout France and get the world talking only about Indian cuisine for just one day. 

Dishes such as Coquilles Saint-Jacques were served on the celebratory night
Dishes such as Coquilles Saint-Jacques were served on the celebratory night

Given the global footprint of Indian cuisine, and the appetite of the Narendra Modi government for mega events, it is not a Herculean mission. Imagine, what a grand statement it will be for India's ultimate soft power. 

It will also open doors for people-to-people exchanges, which increasingly are seen as an important accessory to public diplomacy. 

As the Ambassador of France in India, Alexandre Ziegler, put it so expressively: 'Partnerships between nations are not forged only by diplomats signing MoUs.' 

Ziegler, who's from Sauternes, home to the world's finest dessert wines in Bordeaux, and who owes his Germanic name to his Swiss great-grandfather, kept repeating that French cuisine is not only haute cuisine. 

'People tend to believe French cuisine is very expensive and quite complicated, but gastronomy can also be a daily life experience,' Ziegler said. 
The magnificent spread of Indian cuisine, and its many regional avatars, needs to be shared with the world - and what better way to do it than to have a different celebrated chef from India cook at each of our embassies around the world on one day. 

That is just what the 35-year-old Akrame Benallal, chef-owner of the Michelin-starred Restaurant Akrame in Paris, did during dinner at the French Ambassador's residence on March 21. 

A day before the dinner (March 20), he spent the afternoon with the chefs from the partner restaurants - again, contributing to a better understanding of French cuisine. Gout France may be a one-night affair, but it underlines one salient feature of the emerging world civilisation - food brings people closer in a discordant universe.
Smart new destination for high tea

The other day I was struck by the complaint from a well-travelled young woman about how it's impossible to get leaf tea at even posh hotels around our country, which also happens to be the second-largest tea producing nation in the world.

I find it hard to digest the irony of being a citizen of a top tea-producing nation and yet being served 'dip tea' (from tea bags) in establishments that take pride in calling themselves 'luxury hotels'. 

From irony, it becomes a farce, when the very same hotels take immense pride in showing off their collection of single-origin coffees from exotic locations. 

At Roasted, Aerocity, you are served your favourite leaf tea inside a gleaming gold-tinted stainless steel container
At Roasted, Aerocity, you are served your favourite leaf tea inside a gleaming gold-tinted stainless steel container

For many years, the Emperor Lounge at the Taj Mahal Hotel has been the only place in Delhi-NCR to get a decent cup of tea served in fancy dispensers.

It is therefore with great anticipation that I welcome Roasted at Roseate House, New Delhi Aerocity. 

The 56th outlet of Singapore's luxury retailer, TWG Tea, which has acquired a formidable collection of more than 800 single- estate teas from around the world, Roasted breathes life into a space tucked away in one corner of the hotel's lobby. 

The selection at Roasted consists of nine leaf teas and an equal number of tea bag offerings. 

For accompaniments, Roasted could have stopped at scones (freshly baked), clotted cream and jam, or madeleines (French shellshaped butter cakes), or financiers (French almond cakes), but they also have finger sandwiches where the chefs have let loose their imagination with unusual toppings such as pulled duck, juniper berry and apricot jam; coronation chicken (cooked in Madras curry) with Californian grapes and chopped celery. 

Delhi could do with more of such places. 
America is in love with dosa waffles

America has developed a taste for dosa waffles
America has developed a taste for dosa waffles
After wallowing in second-class status for long, Indian cuisine appears to have made serious inroads into the American table. 

A lot of the excitement about it has to do with Srijith Gopinath of the Taj Campton Place Hotel, San Francisco, retaining his second Michelin star for the second successive year, and Indian Accent opening to a warm reception in New York City, coinciding with Floyd Cardoz’s Paowalla and Suvir Saran’s return to the Big Apple’s forever-bustling restaurant scene with Tapestry. 

In an article headlined ‘Indian Cuisine Catches Fire,’ Nation’s Restaurant News, the US restaurant industry’s daily read, the writer, Brett Thorn, mentions the success of Payal Saha’s The Kati Roll Company, also in New York City, where fillings include tamarind shrimp and duck vindaloo.

The growing following of Biju Thomas’s dosa waffles, which has propelled the fast expansion of Biju’s Little Curry Shop in Denver and Boulder, Colorado, was also given a mention.

Interestingly, mainstream American restaurants are adapting Indian ways. At Nix, a trendy vegetarian restaurant in New York City, Chef John Fraser has two tandoors in the kitchen - and he’s not the first, for Douglas Katz has been cooking with tandoors at Fire Food & Drink since 2001.

Greg Braxtrom’s Olmsted in New York City has gobhi pakora, duck chakna served with naan. 

And Sweetgreen, a 65-outlet fast casual chain based out of Los Angeles, was so successful with its Curry Cauliflower Salad that it has added a Curry Chickpea Warm Bowl for the winter along with a carrot turmeric drink.