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Tech Diplomacy. Capacity building of Countries’ Foreign Policy in the Field of Cyber and Technology

por Ericson Scorsim

jul 04, 2022

Technologies have taken a central role in several countries. For this reason, some countries are innovating their foreign policy concerning new technologies. Some steps are being taken to adapt diplomacy to technological issues.

The first step is appointing ambassadors with expertise in technologies and digital or cyber issues.

Second is creating a specialized technology affairs team or office for foreign policy management.

Third, designing a foreign policy strategy focused on technologies. In the context of the new geopolitical era, some insights are necessary: the anticipation of situational awareness to stay ahead of technological changes and their impact on international dynamics, the coordination of political positions to reduce complexity in domestic and foreign policy, a clear strategic vision with the definition of priorities, values, and interests. 

In the face of the speed of technological change, there are challenges to matching this speed of technological evolution with leadership, legislation aligned to the decision-making process, and leadership in maximizing technological opportunities. Cyber diplomacy requires collaboration between governments and the private sector. Microsoft, for example, has established a permanent office at the United Nations. The intensity of the dispute for political, economic, and technological leadership among countries has created new areas of geopolitical conflict. Impactful topics such as the rare materials and semiconductor global supply chain are part of this competition. Another topic on the international agenda is the norms and standards of new technologies.

The global internet architecture is the subject of dispute between countries. Therefore, the integration of new technology issues in foreign policy requires some capabilities: maintaining situational awareness about the state of technological change and its impact on international dynamics; coordinating positions effectively in domestic policy and foreign policy for better alignment between technology policy to reduce complexity; having a clear strategy to direct technology policy; and establishing priorities, values, and interests. Some countries have already incorporated measures to integrate new technologies into their foreign policy: diplomats, teams, and strategies. Tech diplomats have the following areas of responsibility: domestic policy advice to ensure that thinking, policy, and regulation conform to major international trends and priorities; domestic and international policy coordination and alignment in multilateral, minilateral, and bilateral forums; policy and strategy creation, leading or contributing domestically and internationally. Some examples of countries with tech ambassadors (ambassadors with expertise in technology) are Denmark, China, the UK, the US, France, Germany, Austria, and Australia. Denmark has a tech ambassador for engagement with tech companies with offices in Copenhagen, San Francisco, and Beijing. The UK has appointed a general consul with business experience to represent British interests in San Francisco, home to major technology companies. China has a network of over one hundred and forty (140) specialized diplomats to identify and support the acquisition of emerging technology companies. The United States has established the Office of the Coordinator for Cyber Issues, with a global network of over one hundred and fifty (150) cyber policy officers.

For example, the US government created the US Bureau of Cyberspace and Digital Policy, which has an ambassador for critical emerging technologies. In this context, it is recommended that technology companies have a geopolitical policy with transparency and clear and precise rules on how to act in crises, with experts in geopolitical and security conflicts, international law, and human rights. It is also recommended that companies have a geopolitical crisis committee. Another recommendation is the international participation of technology companies in geopolitical decision centers such as the United Nations. Another suggestion is establishing a committee for setting self-regulatory practices.[1] France has a digital team of over thirty (30) people to deal with the Minister for Europe and Foreign Affairs, the National Agency for Information Security, and the Ministry of Economy and Finance. Germany has an International Cyber Policy Coordination Staff with seven permanent members. India’s Ministry of External Affairs has a foreign policy dedicated to technologies; however, it has not adopted other measures such as appointing an ambassador dedicated to the topic and/or designing the foreign policy strategy in the technological domain. 

The UNIDIR Cyber Policy Portal presents the scenario of the countries’ cyber defense public policies.[2] Brazil can take advantage of these lessons. Diplomacy capacity-building in the cyber domain and new technologies is essential in the geopolitical, geoeconomic, geocultural, and geodefense context. The global competitiveness scenario requires Brazil to adopt a new foreign policy committed to technological and cybernetic issues. New technologies have a significant influence on governments, markets, and society. There are several issues on the international agenda that Brazil needs to be engaged in and present its position on internet architecture, cyber security, intellectual property, data protection, digital connectivity, internet accessibility, technical standards for equipment, internet of things, artificial intelligence, 5G, 6G protection of critical national infrastructures, intelligence and disinformation operations on networks, espionage, among other relevant topics. This is why Brazil must have cyber and cultural diplomacy at its service.

Itamaraty has much to contribute to advancing diplomatic services in the face of new technologies. Several international organizations must address technological issues: United Nations, International Telecommunications Organization, ICANN, International Electrotechnical Commission, and ISO, among others. Brazil’s participation in international organizations to debate technological and technical issues is essential for its technological, economic, social, and cultural development.

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Ericson Scorsim. Lawyer and Consultant in Regulatory Communications Law. Ph.D. in Law from the University of São Paulo (USP). Author of the book 5G Communications Geopolitical Game: United States, China, and the Impact on Brazil, Amazon, 2020. Author of the book Geopolitics of Communications, Amazon, 2021.

[1] Disrupters and defenders. What the Ukraine War has taught us about the power of global tech companies. Tony Blair Institute.

[2] Erzse, Akos and Garson, Melanie. A Leader’s guide to building a tech forward foreing policy. Tony Blair Institute for Global Change, march 25, 2022.