By Amit Das
“To win one hundred victories in one hundred battles is not the acme of skill. To subdue the enemy without fighting is the acme of skill.”
― Sun Tzu, The Art of War
As per Statista 2022 Report the worldwide digital population of internet users is more than five billion. It is 63.1% of the global population showcasing the deep penetration of the internet in our society. The estimated largest internet user base is in Asia with 2.7 billion and the majority from East Asia. The social media giant Facebook is holding four social media platforms with more than 2.89 billion active user accounts. The global average social media use was 147 minutes per day in 2022. The exponential digital reachability is changing the preferences of the user and reshaping the internet habit of the connected world. The omnipresent digital platforms are influencing global society with a capacity of gathering a high volume of processed information, borderless communication and freedom of expression. Those set of information may be true or misinformation or false information. The ease of access to a plethora of information could make it easier for people to find and align with a group of similar beliefs. This leads towards online groups or eco-chambers, where people’s mutated beliefs and deep fakes are reinforced without consideration of other perspectives.
Tech Giants non-state actor for modern diplomacy
The innovative growth in digital technologies is presenting an ample number of opportunities with unknown challenges to the people. Countries are serious about this new fusion of problems and adopting resilient technological solutions to handle such issues. The growth of a digital society is parallelly enhancing the unforeseen digital risk for the government. Globally countries are trying to prepare roadmaps and policies for the smooth run of the digital society. The new world borderless digital society is affecting the diplomatic relationship between countries. Diplomacy is shifting from tedious traditional diplomacy to proactive and online digital diplomacy. The limited technological capabilities and the strong challenges of digital society are enforcing governments to establish a good relationship with the tech giants locally and globally. The nature of the tech giants is more towards the profit rather than the public interest, so it is the responsibility of the government to motivate the tech giants towards the interest of the states.
Tech companies could be considered as the new kind of nations, the entire digital platforms are controlled and operated by those companies. Digital platforms or ICTs (Information and Communication Technologies) are necessary for the local government to enhance the governance up to each level of society. The market capital of an individual tech giant is more than a country. Globally countries are appointing Tech Ambassadors to establish cordial relations with tech giants. In 2014 British Prime Minster David Cameron formed a position of a special diplomat in his office to handle the various technical issues between the government and US tech companies. In 2017 Denmark was the first country in the world to appoint Tech Ambassador to establish a liaison with global Big-Tech-Giants in the interest of the country. Digital diplomats are responsible to practice diplomacy and develop collaboration between the country and tech companies.
Digital diplomacy and cyber diplomacy
Digital technologies are changing the diplomacy of the world and one of the major parameters for the geo-political balance of power. Digitization is the non-state actor which could easily influence the behaviour or change the belief of the friend or enemy state without using the army. It is necessary for the state to learn- how to behave in digital platforms so that they could be stable and secure for the citizens. The expansion of digital platforms is increasing the probability of cyber threats and cyber-attacks in society. The resultant effect of those attacks could be higher due to the rapid growth of digital societies and the digital economy.
Due to the complex and specific nature of the cyber-attacks, the situation is demanding a strong digital alliance and partnership between governments, tech companies and non-governmental organizations. Then it could be possible to protect the global digital citizens. It is time to strengthen international cyber rules to stop cyber-attacks and to create a strong cyber security frame for citizens, institutions, and critical infrastructures. The robust cyber security infrastructure could secure the data from the attacker and smooth digital operations could be possible without any threat. The behaviour of the country in cyberspace is symmetrically influenced by the cyber behaviour of other countries and it is part of cyber diplomacy.
Advanced digital technologies, widespread digital networks, intelligent algorithms, and powerful data are forcing governments to develop strategic foresight with practical insights to align with digital global politics. All the global powers must intelligently prepare the roadmap for the negotiation of emerging digital propositions. It is also necessary that next-generation countries must do the joint task for the digital tools deployed in modern diplomacies such as Data, AI (Artificial Intelligence), social media and Metaverse.
Global move towards digital geopolitics
The digitization of geopolitics is another domain of conflict between the global powers. Modern-era diplomats are attracted towards cyberspace due to its wide reachability and less destructive nature and cyber intruders are mostly invisible. In 2020, United Nations published “Roadmap for Digital Cooperation” to develop digital cooperation between the countries for an inclusive digital society and economy. Improve the digital capacity of humans and institutions globally by reducing global digital inequality. Protect digital human rights by promoting digital trust security and stability between global countries and international institutions. During its G20 presidency, India can highlight its digital transformation, digital potential and human-centric approach to technology. It could help New Delhi to establish digital relations with other stakeholders.
Lessons from Estonia
As compared to frontline global cyber power countries, a European country smaller than Switzerland is recognised for its innovative approaches in the Cyber Space. Some of the key practices include
E-Voting System In 2005 Estonian Citizens casted their votes through E-Voting System with authentic Digital Identity, Remote Voting facility, good quality transparency and accessibility to all Citizens.
Cyber Attack In 2007 Estonia received a fatal and extensive cyber-attack, it targeted institutions of national interest. It was a learning for the country and Estonia developed the most robust cyber ecosystem in the country and was recognised as a cyber-aware country globally.
E-Residency In 2014, Estonia offered the global people, it is a digital identity program which gives the right to the people to utilize the Estonian Government services and to start a business in Estonia. The benefits of E-Residency are Digital Identity, Business Registration, Banking, Taxation and the facility to access the EU Market.
Cyber Diplomacy Estonia is proactive in Cyber-Diplomacy to create trust, peace, and security in Cyber Eco-system. In 2017 the Tallinn Declaration was launched by the European Union (EU) to enhance the Cyber Security Culture and to improve the cooperation between the counterparts. Tallinn is the capital of Estonia.
Digital Twinning The digital twinning technique is actively enforced by Estonia to generate a digital copy of the Cities. It helps to share the knowledge and best practices of the cities worldwide.
EU digital diplomacy
In July 2022, the Council of the European Union announced Council Conclusions on EU Digital Diplomacy to access the massive opportunities to expand foreign policy and engagement with other countries. The EU is also serious about handling the digital security hybrid threats and reducing the counter effects of misinformation such as foreign information manipulation and interference (FIMI). EU is trying to strengthen the existing multilateral, regional and multi-stakeholder processes through EU’s Cyber Diplomacy with digital sovereignty and integrity of Data through the creation of Digital cooperation. The establishment of trusted global internet governance for the digital society and digital economics with the responsible use of data and global digital regularities activities is the future roadmap of the EU. The EU aims to equip its future ambassadors with the skills necessary to operate in the complex, dynamic, non-linear, and heterogeneous geopolitical context.
The author is Amit Das, Head of Centre for AI & Machine Learning, The ICFAI University, Dehradun
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