The intersection of tech and diplomacy: Global collaboration on emerging technologies
Emerging technologies are transforming governments, businesses, and citizens into a truly digital society. Critical infrastructure, financial systems, and communication methods are migrating to an increasingly decentralized internet. New tech innovations like Web3, blockchain, and AI have massive potential to strengthen democracies and global economic security while decreasing the digital divide.
However, these innovations come with significant risks. In his book, “The Power of Crisis,” political scientist Ian Bremmer underscores disruptive technology as one of three looming global crises for which we are largely unprepared. Increased exposure to cyberthreats, complexities around critical resources and supply chains, and environmental concerns complicate technology’s adoption worldwide. U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken points to tech challenges like these as some of the critical areas vital to the modernization of American diplomacy.
The solution to these challenges is strategic tech diplomacy — a rapidly growing form of statecraft which engages non-state actors in the international arena to discuss the future of technology and foreign policy in the digital space. It begins with governments working with business, civil society, and institutions, and equipping global leaders with the knowledge and understanding of how to effectively engage across borders and sectors on the global stage.
The 11th Annual Meridian Global Leadership Summit: Preparing for Tech Transformation in a Digitalized World explored the intersection of diplomacy and emerging technology through ways the public and private sectors can foster policies to promote innovation, build resilient cyber systems, and ensure trust and transparency. Over 50% of the foreign diplomats, business leaders, U.S. government officials, and issue-area visionaries polled at the summit consider tech diplomacy most effective when there is technological and diplomatic cooperation among nations, international organizations, and tech companies.
Eugênio Vargas Garcia, Deputy Consul General and Tech Diplomat, Consulate-General of Brazil in San Francisco speakers at the 2022 Meridian Summit.
We are seeing this collaboration take shape already.
Public-private partnerships are on the rise to connect and engage international leaders with emerging technologies. Jennifer Bachus, principal deputy assistant secretary at the U.S. Department of State, spoke at the summit about how the new U.S. Bureau of Cyberspace and Digital Policy is playing a lead role in enabling an environment where private industry and venture capital can catalyze to increase connectivity. She also announced the launch of the Global Emerging Leaders in International Cyberspace Security program, in partnership with Meridian. Starting next year, the program will bring leaders from likeminded foreign partners and governments to the U.S. to equip them with the knowledge and connections to be effective advocates of the U.N. General Assembly-affirmed framework of responsible state behavior in cyberspace.
Multilateral platforms like the U.N. and the Climate Change Conference continue to serve as the ultimate platform for public-private partnerships, like the Global Digital Compact or Open-ended Working Cyber Group. Tech diplomacy is also being incorporated in corporate social responsibility initiatives like Microsoft’s Airband Initiative, a public-private effort to increase meaningful connectivity worldwide for underserved communities.
While tech can be a transformational tool for change, there must be a balance to ensure we are not only depending on multilateral institutions to implement policy and standards, as authoritative regimes can easily dismiss those initiatives as Dame Karen Pierce, ambassador of the United Kingdom to the U.S., shared at the summit. Instead, we must have a holistic diplomatic approach that ensures tech diplomacy and collaboration can be spread through various platforms.
Another area of consensus at the summit was the need to greater leverage technologies to build an inclusive environment and economy for all. Collaboration across sectors is needed to overcome the global tech and cyber talent shortage, including the industry’s notorious gender gap. Camille Stewart Gloster, the White House deputy national cyber director for technology and ecosystem security, detailed how the U.S. government is developing a multifaceted national strategy to increase diversity in the cyber workforce. Meridian honored Confidence Staveley, founder and executive director of CyberSafe Foundation, with the Meridian’s Global Citizen Award for dedicating her career to increasing female participation in cybersecurity to pull families out of poverty across Africa. She calls these real-life examples of how global priorities can mean local impact.
Technology policy will be a central and defining feature of U.S. foreign policy for years to come. But tech diplomacy will not be shaped solely by heads of state or diplomats. A full-scale collaborative effort by leaders from across sectors, institutions, and societies will be the real driver behind an open, secure, and reliable digitalized world for all. The era of tech diplomacy is here, and the room for growth at the cross-section of tech and diplomacy is exponential.