Huma Siddiqui, financialexpress.com
Image from article, with caption: MEA’s Facebook page with more than 1.2 million followers has come second only to the US state department among foreign ministries in the world.
India has been ranked among the top 10 countries in terms of its digital diplomacy performance
Digital diplomacy is the use of internet and new information communication technologies to help achieve diplomatic objectives. This may have ushered in unprecedented methods of communication between governments and people. Most countries are adapting to these changes by getting expertise from the private sector and setting up dedicated digital diplomacy teams. In some cases, countries are working with global technology firms, including Google, to help build online diplomatic strategies that best complement their international ambitions. The idea is to enhance—not replace—traditional diplomatic tactics.
On this side of the globe, India is leading the way on digital diplomacy. Despite a modest budget in public diplomacy, India’s ministry of external affairs’ Facebook page with more than 1.2 million followers has come second only to the US state department among foreign ministries in the world. Even China’s media has praised India’s digital diplomacy, claiming it’s playing a constructive role in enhancing India-China ties.
This includes the ministry’s companion page, Public Diplomacy, which alone accounts for some 850,000 followers. On Twitter, the official spokesperson Vikas Swarup’s account along with the Public Diplomacy’s account has over 1.2 million followers. On YouTube, the MEA’s video content has 40,000 subscribers and 30 million minutes viewed.
The ministry is also available on Google Plus, Flickr, Instagram, and Soundcloud platforms. Besides that, almost 95% of the Indian missions and posts are now on Facebook and Twitter under the heading “India in” which means that in case you want to find the account of an embassy, “you just need to type “India in XXX” or “India in YYY”, explained an MEA official.
Also, all the regional passport offices are present on Twitter.
Recently, India has been ranked among the top 10 countries in terms of its digital diplomacy performance, according to a global research and advocacy platform. According to MEA’s official spokesperson Vikas Swarup, “India has been ranked in the top 10 nations in terms of its digital diplomacy performance over the last year by Diplomacy Live, a global research, advocacy, consulting and training platform.”
“India and Mexico are the only two countries from the developing world in this list. These combined platforms have a followership in excess of four million and an average monthly reach in excess of 20 million,” Swarup said.
The methodology used for ranking was based on a new approach diplomacy. It identifies 5 major digital diplomacy needs: Presence (50%); Customisation (39%), Up-to-dateness (7%); Engagement (3%), and Diplomacy (1%).
The ministry’s mobile app has seen over 150,000 downloads on Android and iOS platforms. Infact, the online space played a critical role in crisis situations, including evacuation efforts from Yemen and Libya and during the earthquake in Nepal in April last year. Think tanks from the five BRICS countries have agreed to come up with a road map to create digital diplomacy.
In other parts of the world the foreign ministries of the US, Sweden, Britain, Israel, Norway, Kosovo and Germany, also excel in this space, followed by a rapidly emerging number of countries, Canada included, which aren’t far behind. Their diplomats are blogging and podcasting, and by emerging from behind their chanceries to join the public debate, they are reaching and engaging with new audiences.
Some of these foreign ministries have launched global digital campaigns using social media, video, memes and mobile apps to influence in the best interests of their citizens.