With the rise of “smart power,” distinct from “hard” and “soft” power of traditional theories of international relations, the use of online collaboration has become an integral part of government communication.
Public sector employees who adopt partner-based collaboration models will find that they are able to effectively achieve their goals and generate results. Ideas shared through open-platform communication technologies, peer-to-peer networks, and enterprise-grade secure collaboration platforms can help foster greater dialogue and understanding between governments and citizens, ultimately leading to more effective attainment of foreign policy goals.
Increasingly, public-private partnerships are driving this new era of e-diplomacy.
As an example, governments worldwide are achieving tremendous success through their use of Public Service Without Borders (PSWB), the secure, cloud-enabled collaboration and social media environment developed in partnership with the Institute of Public Administration of Canada (IPAC).
Using secure social software solutions, PSWB helps to connect all levels of public service employees to one another to network, engage, share ideas and impart valuable lessons learned in such areas as governance, healthcare, technology and the environment. Whether via desktops or through mobile devices, participants can connect, network, plan and deliver exciting new partnerships and initiatives anytime, from anywhere in the world. This online collaboration platform ultimately fosters better, faster and more efficient services to all constituencies.
E-diplomacy in action
Another case in point is the G-20 Summit in Toronto. For the first time in history, policymakers from around the world were able to collaborate over secure social networking software in advance of and during the Toronto G-20 Summit. A confidential and secure social networking application was created to enhance the sharing of government leaders’ stances on important world financial issues.
Providing the secure, hosted social networking platform to G-8 and G-20 participants was in itself a collaboration between Open Text, the Canadian Digital Media Network (CDMN) – the organization that attracted high-tech companies to the event – and the then-called Canadian Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade (DFAIT). In addition to secure Web access from anywhere in the world in real time, delegates were also able to access the application from their BlackBerrys, iPhones and iPads. The application supported multiple languages to enhance the ability of delegates to network productively.
Senior diplomats and other officials representing G-20 countries used the social networking platform to collaborate in the months prior to the event so that when the Summit got under way, issues and perspectives were shared over a secure network. Access to social networking enables critical issues to be addressed quickly and collaboratively, and to be inclusive of multiple opinions.
Given the heightened focus on security and privacy around the world, G-20 organizers avoided use of consumer-grade social media tools which lack enterprise-strength security controls. At the same time, social media offers a more productive environment for networking and collaboration than email, so a solution that combines the benefits without risk was needed.
This enterprise-grade social networking platform was a great example of private business stepping up and ensuring Canada’s leadership in the digital economy. The application helped to bridge geographic and cultural gaps. The collaboration software has been used subsequently at other global events with similar success.
Open data: The next frontier
The trend toward public-private partnering is set to continue with the recent creation of the Open Data Institute, a joint initiative that will see governments, academic institutions and the private sector work together to solve challenges facing Open Government efforts and realize the full potential of Open Data. These partners will work on development of common standards, the integration of data from different levels of government and the commercialization of data, allowing Canadians to derive greater economic benefit from data sets that are made available by all levels of government.
Open data is a worldwide movement that refers to the free availability of government information online. The Canadian government has announced its support for open data and has been working toward opening caches of data not previously available to entrepreneurs for innovation.
Open data presents a great deal of promise, given the potential value of vast amounts of credible and readily available government information – everything from weather data and border-crossing wait times to hospital emergency room response times. With the move to e-diplomacy, secure online collaboration within and between governments, and an open approach to sharing data with citizens, Canada is advancing the digital economy.