Nepal’s Digital Diplomacy
BY MANISH JUNG PULAMI · 16TH JULY 2020
“When people think of digital diplomacy, they think of government tweeting. It is not what it is. That is public diplomacy.”
“But it is what people understand and government do for digital diplomacy”
Shortly, Digital diplomacy refers to developments conditioning and conditioned by the emergence of digital modes of communication. It is the use of information and communication technologies (ICT) to meet the diplomatic objectives, especially in the recent years it has been used for communications.
Regarding Nepal’s Digital diplomacy, there are four key actors- Prime Minister of Nepal, Foreign Minister of Nepal, Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Nepalese Embassies in different host countries. There has been the utmost use of digital diplomacy, the actors have been using the different forms of ICT for the communications, but the scope of digital diplomacy for Nepal is limited to communications only.
Among the different forms of digital diplomacy, Nepalese actors are more into the “Twiplomacy”. Prime Minister of Nepal KP Sharma Oli’s Twitter account- @kpsharmaoli can be seen active regarding diplomatic communications. His use of twitter is limited to congratulations and condolences to his counterparts, and messages to the people of the different states as well.
Similarly, another actor in Nepal’s foreign policy regarding the digital diplomacy is Foreign Minister of Nepal Pradeep Gyawali. His conduct of digital diplomacy is also limited to the Twiplomacy- @PradeepgyawaliK. His conduct of diplomacy through the virtual means is also limited to diplomatic communications and dissemination of messages and policies regarding foreign relations.
Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) of Nepal, as an institution is more into the digital form of diplomacy. There is no official department conducting the digital diplomacy but the Ministry has been engaged in the 21st Century Statecraft through websites and social media platforms. MOFA’s use of digital diplomacy can be traced back to 2015 by opening up of an account in Twitter (@MofaNepal) and is responsible for communication of all the official announcements and statements for the public interest. It also updates the public with press releases, photos, and videos of all engagements between the Prime Minister or Foreign Minister and other head of states, official visits and other important diplomatic activities.
But most of the digital diplomacy through MOFA is related to communications, public diplomacy and dissemination of information about the activities related to foreign policies. In this COVID-19 pandemic, The Government of Nepal and the Ministry of foreign affairs have engaged in several diplomatic and multilateral meetings through the virtual platforms. For example, PM Oli participated in the video conference of SAARC called by Indian PM Narendra Modi regarding COVID-19, and Nepal’s Foreign Minister Gyawali participated in a virtual conference on Digital Response to COVID-19, High-Level Conference on Belt and Road International Cooperation and others.
Likewise, all the 29 embassies of Nepal abroad have also opened up their twitter accounts and communicate through the same with the diaspora. And the effectiveness of the information dissemination and digital consular services has been at good regarding the digital diplomacy of Nepal’s missions abroad. The diplomatic representatives in various UN agencies and other international organizations have also been actively communicating through social media platforms regarding the developments in the various fields.
Through digital diplomacy, Nepal has benefitted in various regards. It has reduced the cost per engagement for the Government of Nepal regardless of a traditional form of diplomacy. Public diplomacy has been conducted through the digital means of communication, and the information has been made available and accessible.
In contrast to the definition of digital diplomacy of Nepal, that is, being engaged in only public diplomacy and communications, Nepal’s scope of digital diplomacy should be enlarged. Nepal should focus on knowledge management to connect departmental and government’s knowledge so that it is retained, shared and it is used to optimize in pursuit of Nepal’s national interests abroad. Also, information management is key to digital diplomacy of Nepal. The overwhelming flow of information can be used better to inform policymakers and can be helpful to anticipate and respond to emerging social and political movements.
Similarly, digital diplomacy can be highly practised for effective consular services and communications. To create direct, personal communications channels with Nepalese citizens travelling overseas, with manageable communications in crises, Nepal should focus on strong digital diplomacy. This consular realm of digital diplomacy should be enhanced by Nepalese missions abroad to rescue the stranded Nepalese workers in the present times of pandemic.
Addition to this, Nepal’s digital diplomacy is at high risk due to fragile cybersecurity. Nepal has had many instances recently in the COCID-19 pandemic period regarding the hacking attack into government websites. Moreover, the leakage of information, and the internet’s “culture of anonymity” can be a risk to Nepal’s digital diplomacy. Hence, the Government of Nepal should focus on the other aspects of digital diplomacy along with communications and public diplomacy.
Disclaimer: The article was originally published in The Kootneeti.