Winter 2013: The View From CPD

Digital Diasporas: An Opportunity for Public Diplomacy

If public diplomats want to reach the population of a particular country, they can design their efforts to connect with those people within the traditional geographic confines of that nation, or they can expand their targeted audience to include those who are citizens of the “virtual state” – the diaspora living across the globe.

In years past, this latter course was not feasible. Diasporic communities had limited connections with their homelands and with each other. You could, for example, find a large Pakistani community in London, but it was relatively insular and so outreach to it was a wholly separate endeavor from public diplomacy programs designed for “Pakistan” in its traditional sense.

Today, however, diaspora and homelands have unprecedented linkages. The Pakistani in London can watch Pakistani satellite television channels; can communicate with the homeland many times each day by mobile phone; and, although physically distant, can otherwise remain an active participant in social and political aspects of Pakistani life.

This new reality, grounded in communication technologies, requires adjustments in public diplomacy strategies. The publics for whom PD programs are designed must be redefined and their disparate interests recognized. Countries such as Pakistan, Mexico, and Haiti – all of which have large diasporas – require imaginative new PD programs if their global citizenry is to be reached.

The articles in this issue of PDiN Monitor discuss some of the challenges inherent in the significant shift in PD strategies. These changes will broaden and become more significant as newer technologies make virtual states more important players in world affairs.

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