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Pakistan: A Sorry State of Digital Diplomacy

Sep 27, 2017

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According to Twiplomacy Study 2017, 92 percent of UN member states including government heads and foreign ministers are present on Twitter, and 88 percent are present on Facebook. These world leaders, foreign ministers and diplomats use social networking sites to communicate with the foreign public directly on a global level.

Sophisticated yet user-friendly tools and technologies help to catalyze the process of public diplomacy. The standard operating procedure of public diplomacy remains the same (message, target audience and tactics), but online networks have facilitated the process of engaging foreign publics. 

Therefore, countries such as Pakistan that do not yet have a centralized social media policy to communicate with the foreign public face the need to develop digital diplomacy platforms. Pakistan has faced many challenges in foreign policy since the country announced the war against terrorism, especially after September 2001. Pakistan’s public diplomacy—particularly digital diplomacy—is not yet up to the standard of neither its neighboring states, nor the rest of the world.

Since the inception of internet, the question remains: how and where to use it? Public diplomats must identify which information to broadcast or not. Today, news media and communication is becoming more important for non-governmental organizations, governments, corporate sectors and trade unions. Competition among countries and institutions has shifted from a local to an international level. With digitalization, traditional media has had to evolve: social media has converted into a channel that allows organizations and governments to receive real-time audience feedback on their agenda. Through social media, it’s quite easy to engage the public and observe their behaviors.


There is a dire need to have concrete and effective policies that reflect tangible measures to initiate digital public diplomacy in Pakistan.

According to DiploFoundation, in 2016, almost half a billion social media users were in Asia while 400 million users were in Europe. People spend much time on these social networking sites without considering the purpose of their social media use, but their presence on these networks matters for organizations, governments and companies. Not only are regular internet users on these social media sites but also world leaders, diplomats, foreign ministries and government departments who use them to engage and inform the public accordingly.

Pakistan is in a miserable condition in regards to its e-diplomacy. Pakistan’s diplomatic missions abroad do not use social media effectively to engage and communicate with the foreign public in order to brand the country’s image. Public diplomacy is not only for image-building but also for strengthening relations with other states and for setting an agenda for the international public and policymakers.

Pakistan’s digital diplomacy is relatively new, reflecting the state’s new foreign policy developments. Unfortunately, most of Pakistan’s institutional social media accounts are not using these networks for public awareness and state affairs, just as its foreign ministry is not actively using these digital media tools for public diplomacy. According to foreign ministry officials, there is no centralized system that monitors the digital diplomacy run by the diplomatic mission abroad.

Each diplomatic mission abroad (i.e. embassies and high commissions) run their public diplomacy in an individual capacity. None of them have verified social media accounts, neither on Twitter or on Facebook. So far in my research, I have found that only 30 percent of embassies and high commissions are using social media to inform and engage the foreign public. Pakistan has 116 diplomatic missions abroad. A list of press attachés and focal persons exists, but the corresponding e-diplomacy central system is nowhere. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Pakistan has no document or policy paper that describes e-diplomacy for the purpose of engaging the foreign public, and hence it is contributing no significant results to the public diplomacy goal of developing the soft image of Pakistan using e-diplomacy as an available tool.

There is a dire need to have concrete and effective policies that reflect tangible measures to initiate digital public diplomacy in Pakistan. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs should initiate the development of educational disciplines in various universities to promote research and development in the field of digital diplomacy.

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13 COMMENT(S)

Reply to AR Sajid

Dear Mr. Sajid, thank you for reading my article and comment on it. Yes, indeed it’s very important issue and new challenges to public diplomacy can be overcomed with the effective use of social networking sites. Hundreds of foreign ministries are using social media to engage foreign public.

Communication

Glad to read such a thought provoking information about Pakistan. It's dire need to take in account this article and take some immediate steps for foreign public diplomacy.
Mr. Muhammad ITTEFAQ your contribution is highly appreciated.

Reply

Dear Mr. Azhar Iqbal, Thank you for reading my article. As you have read in the article that most of the governments are using social networking sites (SNS) to engage the foreign public and do dialogue through this medium. Social media is not only a platform for socialization but also used to influence foreign audience and policymakers over certain issues. The government of Pakistan must take steps to utilize these networks to branding Pakistan to foreign public.

A must for IPR

Good article. For the positive image and effective representation of diaspora, effective social media usage is a must. Pakistan is facing various sociopolitical challenges on many fronts and building of a positive image requires planned,systematic and effective use of social media.

Reply

Dear Professor Seemab, It's my honor that you read my article. Social media is cost effective for developing nations who cannot afford international broadcasting channels, like DW, Russia Today and much more. Pakistan must realize the potential of social media to create soft image of Pakistan.

Much Needed

I think this is something much needed than any military or police operation.
Awareness and centralized policy will definitely resist our youth becoming part of ISIS or Al-Qaida and other extremist groups.
The establishment of Social Media Authority is an important need of time if we want to show ourself a "successful" state in front of the world.
Otherwise things will be up side down for Pakistan and it will be very difficult for it to counter the "attack" of "failed state" image.
Hats off to Mr. Ittefaq for raising such an important issue.

Reply

Dear Mr, Jawwad, Yes I agree with you that centralized digital policy for social media will help Pakistan and ministry of foreign office to achieve goals. This is one segment of Publica Diplomacy, there are hundreds of ways to conduct diplomacy, but the most important thing is consistency and coherency of the content.

History

Dear Ittefaq,
Its nice to have some research from you on Pakistan's e-Diplomacy. But I needs to be enhanced further using some more sources. You have to trace out some statistics about official web pages of Pakistan's Foreign Office at home and its embacies/missions abroad and its visitors. You must also discuss any efficacy of those websites at public level accross the globe. You must also adress the fact that how much Pakistan is interestef and open in its foreign policy to be shared with the public at home and abroad. Is its establishment ready for this job due to its picular security concerns. These may be the real questions to be answered in your reasearch.
As a whole, I strongly congrat and apprecite your research. May Almighty Allah bless you with more and more successes in your life

History and Public Diplomacy

Dear Dr. Safi Ullah, Yes I have researched on the Offical website of all embassies and high commissions abroad. Most of them are just a web page connected with Foreign Ministry's official website and do not have their own independent website. The point about the openness of foreign policy will be discussed in next article. Thank you for wishing me success.

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