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 You are in: Bureaus/Offices Reporting Directly to the Secretary > Policy Planning Staff > Secretary's Open Forum > Proceedings > 2003

E-Diplomacy: Using Technology to Advance Foreign Relations

John Petersen, President, Arlington Institute
Ambassador James Holmes; Director, e-Diplomacy Office (M/eDIP)
Remarks to the Open Forum
Washington, DC
February 20, 2003

Opening Remarks and Introduction

Thank you, Bill, it's nice to be here. I did turn this on, but it doesn't sound right. Does that sound any better? There we go.

I shoveled more snow in the last 2 days than—[laughter]--I ever want to shovel again. And so I appreciate you all coming out today.

I want to talk to you a little bit this morning about technology, and I want to talk to you about that then in the context of diplomacy a bit. And we are going to go really quickly, because we don't have a whole lot of time. But let me start by saying--and if we could get the lights down here, so we can see the slides--we live in extraordinary times. We live in a time when biotechnology is manipulating organic and human and animal forms, like this mouse that grew a human ear on it. We are living in times where we are going to find out probably that this was the year that humanity, for the first time, cloned human beings; that we duplicated human beings for the first time in human history. There are people in this room who will probably live to be 150 years old, science tells us, because of the advances and the extraordinary kinds of things that are going on in life extension and aging. It's a period of time with extraordinary, exponential growth, like this curve in the population that shows that we are living in a time where the amount of population on the Earth is going almost sky high.

This kind of exponential relationships exist across the whole spectrum of areas, but they are most profound in the area of technology, and particularly the Internet. This is a slide showing the number of hosts on the Internet, and as you can see, since 1995 it's increased almost vertically--straight up to the sky. This is an exponential curve. And the implications of that are really quite profound. It's interesting to think about that in terms of the fact that the computer was only invented two generations ago. Television only existed for the first time three generations ago. Think of it--that the printing press showed up for the first time just 24 generations ago, and universities were only 40 generations ago. This is an accelerating, extraordinary period of time where things are moving faster and faster, and the implications are really quite profound.

IBM--I got this slide from a friend at IBM last week, who said--who showed this at a conference when I was in LA, UCLA, a couple of weeks ago. This is what IBM's projections are for computer power. And the thing you want to look at is up here in the upper right-hand corner. They are saying by about 2012 or so that you get human-like behavior in computers, like Hal in the movie 2001. We are at the point where some people like Ray Kurzweil (ph) believe that computers will become more powerful than human beings, smarter than human beings--that we will begin to work for the computers after about 2029 or 2030, or something like that.

In any case, it's an amazing kind of time, and it's being driven in part by the fact that technology is getting smaller and smaller and smaller. This again is an exponential scale that's showing how the individual pieces are becoming smaller. When I was studying electrical engineering in college quite some time ago, I was soldering individual transistors together to make oscillators and amplifiers and that kind of stuff. And now you're getting to the point where you're getting huge numbers of these things on very small packages. This is something out of UCLA or Berkeley. This is called Smart Dust, this little piece of technology up there. Ultimately, it's going to be the size of a grain of sand--the size of a grain of sand. And what it has is an amplifier and power supply and a sensor suite that looks around, and it communicates--it has a transponder, so it communicates with satellites. It's the size of a grain of sand. And, ultimately, in about 2 years, they'll be to the point where you can fly over this town at 30,000 feet and kick it out of the side of the airplane and it will spread around, and you have a surveillance system that all--a network. Think about that. That's not the kind of world where we lived before. And the implications of that are really quite profound.

It's getting to the point--George Guilder (ph) says that sometime soon in this decade that you are going to be able, for $100, to be able to buy the computing power that in 1994 cost $320 million on 16 of the largest-grade computers that could be purchased at that time--for $100 bucks this month--this decade. I mean, that's extraordinary, and the implications are tremendous. That kind of capability is coming along in part because you are going to be able to put amazing kinds of storage together in small pieces.

If you reach up and touch your hair and pull out one strand of hair, and cut that off to a centimeter long, you are approaching the point in time where you will be able to put 90,000 gigabytes of memory on a strand of hair--90,000--you bought a computer lately, have you? You get a hard drive that's got 20 gigabytes on it--this is 90,000 gigabytes on that much kind of material. That's an amazing kind of thing that is going to allow us to do extraordinary things.

Let me make this point one more time. You all remember Napster a couple of years ago? You remember that, you rip off music--your kids--you don't do it, but your kids rip off music from the Internet, right? Here's the universe--200 million personal computers, 17 billion audio CDs. There's 150 unique titles of CDs. The average owner has 30 of them, and the average enthusiast has 200 of them. Now, if Moore's law, this notion of doubling every 18 months in power, continues, there's a very interesting relationship that shows up. First of all, the hard drive costs, what, 30 gigabytes costs a little less than $150 now. And this is Dolly Parton out here, and Dolly Parton represents CDs--music. And what you are going to find out is that last year you could put 614 Dolly Partons on your hard drive. In 2006 you get 6,000 Dolly Partons, and by 2012 you get 150,000 Dolly Partons. What was that number? That was all of the music in the world--that's what 150,000 is.

You do MP3 players, which are coming along--$700 bucks--all the music in the world by 2016. You know, this doesn't have to be just music. It turns up in read/write optical discs as well. This is digital information. And those are cables--this is any kind of information that you can package or any kind that you can put together. It is anything that you can think of--movies and everything else. It's paper, it's all of this stuff that gets generated in this building in piles this high, I am sure.

What's also happening is the price of these microchips are going down and down, and by the end of this decade a common chip will be--maybe you'll be able to purchase them for about a penny or two. That extraordinary combination of things is putting us on a track to where by 2022 or so present trends look like that you can for $100 buy all the computing power that existed a couple of years ago at the CIA and the NSA, and you'll have as much space on your hard drive as the whole Internet had in the basic structure of the Internet a couple of years ago. That's a different world. It doesn't work like this.

The transmission speed, as we are moving more and more information is going up and up, and that's why you get an Internet that is exploding like this, because all of this technology is coming around together in an extraordinary kind of combination of ways that is driving a whole new world.

It's not enough that all this stuff is happening, but it is being inserted into the society, into our society, faster and faster and faster. Here it took almost 30 years to get a quarter of the population to use the telephone. It was 24 years before the first 25% of the population used the television. It took 12 years for the mobile phone. But it only took a couple or 3 years for everybody to be on the Internet. And so it's getting more and more powerful, and it's driving itself into the system faster and faster.

So what does all that mean for diplomacy? What is this extraordinary change that's going on in the world mean for the kind of business you all are in? Well, you can call it "e-diplomacy," which of course is Ambassador Holmes's shop and what he does. You know, Secretary Powell in an off-the-cuff remark a while back called it "net-diplomacy." There was a group in Aspen, Colorado, at the Aspen Institute this summer that worked on it, called it "netpolitik." But whatever you call it, this is a really important and big deal that's going on. Ambassador or Secretary Powell said it's the most powerful tool for communicating there is-- information technology. And he says it's ideal for spreading America's promise. He said that we communicate the values of our country that are going to be done through this technology. And he says his big objective is to put in an Internet-accessible computer with big pipes on every desk in every embassy and within this building here. Why is he doing that? Why is he saying that?

Well, when you look at this e-diplomacy and you break it out and see what the implications are and where it's going, you see that it has extraordinary impact in changing the architecture and power and culture. And there are some implications also about building a new arena for competing stories- and we'll talk a little bit about each one of these things real quickly. Then there's a rise of soft power.

Now, on the changing architecture, what the Internet is doing is proliferating a whole bunch of new sources of information. And that is to say that now NGOs and academics and international journalists--and they are all players now- they didn't use to be players. And many of you in this room understand that very, very well. The Ppresident of Romania says that all this tremendous shift is going on. And it used to be that the agenda was framed by spies and embassy officials, but it doesn't work that way any more. There are a whole lot of players that are in that environment.

What also is happening is that you have to cope with faster information in less time. Bob Hormats from Goldman Sachs says there's this tension between velocity of information and the judgment. My wife Diane, who used to be the administrator of a law firm, said there was a fundamental shift in law firms that happened when the fax machine came in. Before, you know, you could send the stuff by the mail, and you would get a couple of days or a couple of weeks in order to get a response. You send a fax, and the client would instantaneously want an answer to the thing. And Madeleine Albright said at this conference that CNN has become the 16th member of the UN Security Council. It's a whole different kind of world that's happening in that regard.

The rise of soft power--some of you are familiar with this. What is hard power? Well, that's where you try to get somebody to do it with incentives and pressure that they didn't really want to do it. But the soft power is this whole notion of how you can convince somebody, and you encourage them, and you educate them, and you persuade them. And in the soft power area you've got public diplomacy coming along where Waring Partridge (ph) who works for some of you here somewhere here I am told, says to gain support of people in this institution we have got to engage them and persuade them in ways, and let them know what we stand for. That's why Secretary Powell talks about the values kinds of things. Technology is changing the diplomacy from this closed system it used to be to a much wider and open system.

And then there's the ethnic diaspora and the Internet coming together to have a whole new area of soft power politics. What you've got here are people who have individual interests who never could connect with themselves before, who now no matter where they are in the world can connect themselves altogether, and they can have--and come together to form a common agenda. This can be very positive; this can be very negative. But what you get is sovereignty and other kinds of things that are starting to go by the wayside in ways that never happened before.

So here we are in the competing stories. This is interesting, because in the Internet you don't have any framework to know who anybody is. My Soviet friends used to tell me that they always liked to watch the news, because they never watched the news; they looked in the background to see what was in the stores at that time, to figure out what the rest of the world and the West looked like. Well, you can't do that the Internet anymore. You don't know who you are talking to, you don't know the context; the social context is gone. It starts to press for questions about credibility and trust and understanding. And also you have this issue of multiple subjectivities, that you have many audiences that you have to talk to, and all at the same time, and you have to take them all into account at the same time.

Secretary Powell said, when he was the chairman of the Joint Chiefs during the Gulf war that when he was out there, he said, "When I made a statement, I had to keep in mind that I was talking to the person who asked me the question. I was talking to the American people at the same time. I was talking to the heads of 160 countries around the world. I was talking to my enemies. And I was talking to my troops--all at the same time. That's hard to do on the Internet. I’ve got a social psychologist friend, Dr. Don Beck (sp), who specializes in figuring out how do you program in one statement ways in which you talk to everybody who is going to listen to it? Well, to close this thing up, what you are seeing is this extraordinary globalization of the Internet. These are the pictures from National Geographic of the underwater cables that are going to all the places from the United States. And this is coming together. And what is coming together and what is emerging out of this, if you ask me, is the global brain, a global neural system. This is an extraordinary thing to where, in almost organic terms, you're starting to see all of us in the intelligence on this planet coming together in ways this never has before.

So what's the conclusion of all of this for folks like you? Perhaps the most important imperative is to recognize that this thing exists. The Internet and other information technologies no longer are a peripheral force in the conduct of world affairs, but they are a powerful engine for change. Global electronic networking is not only remaking economies but transforming people's values and identities and social practices. Moreover, these changes are not just occurring within the boundaries of nation-states, but all sorts of unpredictable transnational communications. That's the kind of world. It's an extraordinary new world, with amazing opportunities.

Clem Sunter, a great futurist of South Africa, says knowledge is power. Ideas conquer the world now, not armies. And that's the business you're in. You're in the business of ideas. Thank you very much. [Applause.]

MR. KEPPLER:  I want to thank John. That was very a interesting, a very stimulating, and very informative presentation. But now I'd like to turn the program over to the Director of the State Department's e-diplomacy initiative, Ambassador James Holmes. [Applause.]

AMB. HOLMES:  Thank you, Bill. And my particular thanks to John Petersen for the stimulating keynote. Bill, I want to congratulate you on your acceptance of the leadership of the Secretary's Open Forum and for your work today in organizing this forum.

Secretary Powell has consistently emphasized that the Department must exploit information technology in order to advance American diplomacy--not just through better web design or more robust networks, but by more effectively pushing out our messages into the world through outreach, public diplomacy, collaboration with sister agencies, foreign governments, non-governmental organizations, and the public.

To accomplish this goal, Undersecretary Green created the e-diplomacy task force with the mandate to put the Department's core business practices, and the practitioners' user requirements in the driver's seat, and to help the bureaus of the Department translate those requirements into appropriate information technology.

But we know that technology is seductive. It can be diversionary. So this Open Forum really underscores how you, the practitioners of diplomacy, can use diplomacy to advance the management and the conduct of foreign relations. E-diplomacy will focus on the people part of the equation, how we can and must change to keep apace with the technology.

Here are a couple of examples that you have provided to us that we will address through a number of working groups. You want a single-user ID and a password, which permits you to access all the applications you use daily, use the same ID when you travel or assign to another post. E-Diplomacy is working to create a full-service global directory on our classified and unclassified systems to do that and more.

We want the network--you want the network to work with you to the maximum effect, whether it's with a colleague in the next office, across the world in a sister agency, another government, or a non-governmental organization. E-Diplomacy is working to build bridges with other organizations through the creation of a robust extranet to move State's diplomatic information faster, to a broader audience, and in a searchable and reusable format, whether you are a political officer in Ottawa, an economic officer in Cairo, or a consul officer in Singapore.

You want access to your unclassified information from any secure browser in the world, whether that browser runs on a notebook in your hotel room or wireless connection to your PDA. While this is a more challenging requirement, e-Diplomacy is currently collecting business and user requirements to better define these needs as well.

In short, e-Diplomacy is your organization to help translate your business requirements into the appropriate information technology. We need your continued partnership and involvement to move these projects forward--and to define the new ones that you need. You can help us to do that. I urge that you participate in user surveys. There will be a survey distributed shortly to all Department bureaus to help us gather necessary information to complete the strategic enterprise architecture. And we need your feedback. Tell us what you need to do to do your business and the business of the Department. Tell us what you think. Come to our website at edip.state.gov. Join in the discussions.

Now I'd like to direct our attention to Tony Wayne, Assistant Secretary for Economic and Business Affairs, who will speak on the technology sector and how his bureau can help U.S. business in the global economy through the use of technology. Tony?

MR. WAYNE:  Jim, thanks very much. It's a pleasure to be here. It's a pleasure to be working in an environment where we have a power user as Secretary spurring us on and encouraging us to learn more and to really take advantage of all these opportunities that are out there, and to move ourselves bureaucratically and individually.

The Secretary--Secretary Powell doesn't hesitate to regularly bring this up. Last week, even in his Senate budget hearings, he made quite clear that we are in a world right now where we are communicating instantaneously directly to the consumer. And he reiterated the pledge that he made, the goal that he set when he came to the State Department, that every employee at the State Department in every one of our 260 installations around the world, would have instantaneous access to the Internet and to the world of modern communications.

Well, in EB--that's the Economic and Business Bureau--we were fortunate to be one of the pilots that got Internet access at our desktops. And I can say it's been a great boon to us. And I am happy to say, if I understand correctly, that by May we hope that will be true all over the Department. It has been invaluable for the kind of work we do, reaching out not only to our colleagues inside government, but to the many businesses and consumer groups and NGOs and others that we interact with on a regular basis.

But, as Jim said, I would like to start off a little bit and talk about how we also serve technology in EB--but not only in EB, across the Department of State with our network of economic officers and science officers and others around the world. This is important for creating jobs, boosting growth, but also for enhancing democracy and helping development and helping link countries together around the world.

I think that maybe I'll give a couple of examples of what we do first in EB. We have an Office of International Communications and Information. Ambassador David Gross heads this office. What we do there is we, in part, manage our interaction with the International Telecommunications Union. Now before I came to EB and started working there, I can't say that I focused a lot on what the ITU did. But it really is an extremely important part of linking the world together with this new technology. It's there that people decide on dividing up all the spectrum that we use around the world. And it's there that people work out the practices and the standards to ensure that national communications systems can interconnect together. This involves many multibillion dollar decisions important for business. But there also are decisions that are very important for each of us as we seek to send messages to our friends in other countries and across the Pacific, across the Atlantic, and anywhere else we want to go.

Right now we are working hard with countries all around the world for a global summit that's coming up on information society. It's going to take place in December in Geneva. And we are really going to look at that as how you can use the new technologies and communication links that have developed to help encourage development in the poorer countries, in the developing countries. We are going to focus, as we go into that, on how we can strengthen the infrastructure to connect all those countries up to this global net, how we can strengthen the human capacity in these countries really to know how to plug into it, and how at the same time we can work to enhance network security--something we have all been reminded of certainly since a year ago September.

Also, I think it's important to just step back a minute and say, well, why is all of this important? Sure it's important in some ways--technology is expanding; this is vital. But let's look at some of the basic economics just for a moment that in a lot of ways this new technology has spurred a new economy--not just at the fact that we are looking at new technology, but as we've really seen a remarkable productivity growth in our economy. Since 1995, productivity has grown rapidly. Between 1995 and 2000 it was 2.5% a year. But then, contrary to the precedent of the previous 50 years, even as we headed into recession, our productivity continued to grow by more than 1.5% a year. And that's pretty remarkable. What this means, of course, is productivity is real growth. It's the kind of growth that puts dollars in the paycheck without accelerating information. That's very important. And if we can export--if we can continue and export that kind of productivity growth around the rest of the world, we'll be doing a tremendous amount toward our shared goals of increasing prosperity and encouraging development.

There, of course, is a lot of noneconomic impact that comes along with this--enhancing democracy by enhancing transparency through all the efforts that are being done now to do so many things using the Internet--from government procurement to making it possible for all of you to register for your driver's license or renew your driver's license--but many things that just make public discourse more available to a wide range of people.

Now, if we also just think about how not only we in the Economic Bureau here but how our missions overseas are contributing to this, it's really quite significant. In the trade area, we work very closely, of course, with our colleagues at the U.S. Trade Representative's office to ensure such things as tariff-free treatment for the information technology that allows this productivity and all of these advances that we've had. We work really hard around the world to defend intellectual property rights that allow American software designers and creative minds to actually get the benefit of what they've created and, thus, to continue that virtuous cycle of invention and creativity and expansion.

We are, as we think about this, we also are working hard to improve investment environments around the world. Because if you think about why we took off, it wasn't just that all of a sudden ideas went on and new technology came forward. It was that there was capital readily available to support those ideas and to help them get what they needed to really take off. And that doesn't exist in many parts of the world. So an important part of what we are doing is in other places, encouraging that kind of investment environment.

And then, of course, we have, like with the transparency, a whole set of very important issues of e-learning and e-health, and cheaper telecommunications, which bring direct advantage to people in developing countries on a daily basis. Let me give two examples of some initiatives that we've worked on with a number of other agencies and a number of other bureaus. One is in e-logistics and another one is in e-government. In e-logistics is the idea that when you have e-commerce selling things over the Internet, it's not just that you make the deal over the Internet; you have to do everything to make sure that that material gets to the consumer. Now, if it's software or music or something else, it can go via the Internet. But if it's actually something physical and concrete, you have got to make sure the sale takes place, it gets on an airplane, gets through customs, doesn't get interrupted in the postal delivery system. So there is a whole chain that you follow through. We have been working with a number of other countries, a number of other agencies, to make that e-logistics chain work smoothly, to find the best practices, to do away with the barriers that have come up.

Secondly, we have been working with a number of other countries--and other countries have been taking this on themselves--to look for best practices in e-government, opening up much greater efficiency and, as I said before, transparency. And when we do that there are, of course, beneficial side effects. There are good opportunities for business and creativity around the world. Just last week one of our local firms in Northern Virginia got a very substantial contract to help the Government of Ireland develop its on-line passport application process. And there are many, many examples of this around the world, and, of course, it doesn't just benefit American companies; it benefits innovation wherever it is taking place.

As Jim indicated, of course, my bureau and I and all of us aren't just promoters of information technology and promoters of its benefits, we also are consumers. We really can't do our job well in this world unless we are better and better connected to it. As many of you know, the Secretary gets his initial briefing in the morning by checking the Internet himself. And many of us have been caught out having to be ready to know what he's seen when he comes in and asks us some questions like, what was this I read in this corner of the world or this report?

So it means that we all--it's a signal, a sign that we all need to be more and more adept at using this technology's potential. And we are at a good beginning. And Jim has laid out a number of the things that we are doing in that connection.

A number of us also in a number of different bureaus have tried to, for example, use our video conferencing facilities to connect more quickly, more inexpensively, with our colleagues in other parts of the world to work out many challenging issues that we've worked on. We also have a number of these very neat new white boards that go up where we can not only do slides and videos and computer screen slots, but we can also do the hand-edits to that and work on this right before all of us on the screen there. We now have a number of ways to connect with our sister agencies in classified communications, too, and that's amazingly important, particularly for those of us who deal with places on a regular basis in other parts of town where they haven't had that classified connectivity before. It has just made our work much, much better.

I think Charlie Ries will have a little bit to say about how we are putting that to practice in the field also--a lot of advantages going on there as well.

Then, as we start exploring the e-room technology and how we can use that--we have used that in some of our interaction with the private sector, with NGOs, where you have a password-protected website. You can retrieve common documents, you can get at notification when there's a new document put in there--they send an e-mail to you, really exciting stuff--and really enhancing the kind of networking and working together as a group, where you don't have to come, sit down together and do this.

I might just mention even having the travel manager in the office these days has made it a lot faster once we got over the initial learning curve to get our travel vouchers filed, as I think many of you know, and get that payment back a lot more quickly than we did before.

Now, as Jim mentioned, there's a lot more to do here. We have had--as many of you probably have done, we sat down in our bureau and we talked about if we are really using the new technology well? Is there more we can do? There is a lot of education that has to go on. Sometimes we have been pushing out more information than people are ready to pull off. Sometimes they want to pull more out, but they aren't sure how to do that. I remember when we got our electronic earnings and wage statements, it took me a while to get comfortable with pulling that off there. Now that I know it's up there and I can go back and check past ones, and I know how to use it, I have jumped over that curb, and it's great to have. But there is that curb, and it's important that we remember that curb.

As Jim mentioned, I think it's really important that we work on getting e-mail access wherever we are--at least. on the classified system. When we are traveling around the world--how many of have gone away for a few days and come back and have found hundreds and hundreds of e-mails that you have to work through and deal with, and some of which you wish had been sent to somebody else, because the work needed to get done in between, but it only went to you? Well, we can--we are, and we need to keep working on ways to help us deal with that, as the private sector does when they travel around the world, and they can connect in. I know there are a number of efforts now underway to make that happen. There are some pilot projects going on. I know there's a pilot project in Canberra. I know we've got some new laptops that we are going to try and work with domestically in the United States. There's a lot we can do here to really make sure that we are mobile professionals. And they describe--that's what the business world describes themselves as, mobile professionals. And if any profession was supposed to be mobile, it's us--it's diplomats moving around the world. And if any profession relies on the importance of information and communication, it's us.

So you know really look forward to us moving forward in this technology, so we can synch up with our unclassified computers, so we can have these WIFY laptops that when we are in an airport waiting to go someplace we can connect up with the Internet and connect up with our e-mails, with our other partners that we are working with. It does have to come along with training. I need that training. I learn it every day, and I have the benefit of having a couple hundred extremely educated, wonderful people to help me stumble through some of these things. But we have got to provide that training to our people as we go forward.

There are important security challenges. Our Bureau of Diplomatic Security is working really very hard with the other elements in this building, with other elements of the federal government, to work through a number of those challenges. In that effort I think it's really important that we recognize- that we keep the spirit that the challenges are there, they are important, but they are not too hard to do. They can be addressed. We saw those great curbs--of what we are doing in technology. And that applies to the security area, too. We can apply them there. I mean, I look forward to that day when we get a new class of Foreign Service officer, and they have graduated and they get their flag--and they not only get the flag, but they get their personal communicator that they can carry around with them, and they can communicate with the rest of us, wherever their assignments are. So thanks very much for the opportunity to speak today, and I look forward to hearing from Charlie Ries.

AMB. HOLMES:  Thanks very much, Tony. [Applause.]

Charlie Ries, the Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary for European Affairs has long been an advocate for better use of technology in the Department. He's been an active member of the Start Steering Committee. Charles will address us on how increased use of technology has improved efficiency,and his vision for the future. Charlie?

MR. RIES:  Thank you very much, Jim. I won't --a lot of things have been said, and I'll try not to repeat them. I speak frequently on this subject. It's rare, though, that I get to talk about it to a group that actually wants to hear about it. [Laughter.] I travel frequently among our posts in Europe, and I always do a town meeting, and I always talk about technology, messaging, all the kinds of things that are changing.

I'm of that generation--and I see a few of us still around--that began in the days of aerogramme--began in the days we had a telegram, a communiqué, put it on punch type. And we've come a helluva long way in a very short period of time.

But I do remember some of the kinds of times when we users came up against telecommunications and other kinds of network problems. I remember in Ankara, when I was there in the 1980s. I needed to make a telephone call to Washington, and I had to go to the DCM's office and get him to sign a piece of paper, and the piece of paper went to the operator, and then I went back to my desk and waited for 45 minutes until the call came through. Needless to say, we didn't make a lot of calls to Washington. And, as a result, we weren't very much informed about what Washington wanted us to do, or what changes were taking place, and what new instructions we were going to get.

When I was an E in the Undersecretary for Eeconomic Affairs' office after that--a couple of years after that--at that time the Undersecretary was the sherpa preparing the G-7 summits, and the sherpas from the early 1980s communicated by fax. So I thought it might be reasonable that we had our own fax machine in the Undersecretary's office. The Sirector of S/S-EX at the time told me, no, faxes were a message center function, and they should be controlled by the Operations Center, because after all we need to keep a log on them, of the faxes you send, and we need to make sure that the Undersecretary isn't passing instructions by fax, or something like that. And needless to say, of course, we needed the speed and immediacy of our own fax machine, so what we did was we went to EB and sent our faxes from EB, and it worked fine.

Tony and I were together in Brussels in the early 1990s, and with some perspicacity we saw the value of video conferencing. We spent $50,000 of post funds to acquire a video conferencing capability in our conference room at Yusu (ph). The trouble was that there wasn't a single unclassified video conferencing facility in this building at all, period. You did a video-conference--you had to get everybody who was going to be involved travel over to Southwest to USIA headquarters to do it. We went to IM Bureau, and we said, look, we spent $50,000--do you think you could spring for $50,000 to build one room where you could do the other side of a video conference? We would save all this travel, we would have all these meetings. IM's view was it wasn't our function.

I also remember trying to get Internet at the desktop at my embassy in London, when I was the section chief for the economics section. And the admin section at the time said: Oh, no, we think people will waste their time on the Internet. And I said, look, they're wasting their time or their not wasting their time is a management function. What I need from you is information technology to let them do their job. So this is, in my view, the most exciting time to be in diplomacy. You don't have to worry about aerogrammes, you don't have to worry about telephone calls and DCMs. We are giving people the tools to be effective. And the results are clear to us in the European Bureau. People--my officers at embassies all over Europe and in places like Tajikistan--are plugged in daily with what we are doing in the bureau, what the assistant secretary’s schedule is, what our priorities are. When we do a memorandum for a visiting head of state coming to the White House, we share it with the posts. In fact, often the posts write chunks of it. The product is better, the reaction is faster, and we are better able to do our jobs.

I do not think that new technology is going to replace diplomats. It's going to enable diplomats and it's going to allow us to be much, much more effective.

Our task is to take advantage of a Secretary of State who understands those concepts viscerally and to put in the systems that will allow us to take the next steps forward. And that's why I was delighted to take up Grant Green's offer to participate in, as far as I know, the first committee to design a new leap forward that involved the users as well as the information technology professionals, who are the best in the business but don't--[short audio break for tape flip]--problems from our standpoint. And we are working on this messaging system that Jim mentioned, which the acronym stands for State Messaging and Archive Retrieval Toolset, which is SMART.

The idea is as a replacement for the telegram--record traffic. The telegram is almost obsolescent, if not obsolete. People don't read them. People don't even bother to send them anymore, because they know people don't read them. And if we don't rescue it, we the managers of the system, won't have the ability to reliably instruct embassies to do things, and will lose all ability to shape a coherent and effective foreign policy. So the stakes are very, very large.

As the design of SMART is coming forward, there is a website--you can read all about it. Just a couple of aspects of this thing that strike me. One is that this system from the outset will integrate the record traffic, the telegrams of old and the e-mail, and the informal traffic of the future. And if you chose to do so, you can have a single integrated inbox that brings in telegrams and e-mails directed to you--telegrams being directed to the institution. And you will be able to sort them, and you will be able to filter them, which is vitally important for me--to be able to have the tools in my hand to decide what I need to know on Tuesday on Tuesday. On Wednesday I might need to know something else and want to be able to change those filters. We're going to do that. Most importantly to me, as a manager who travels a lot, we will have that worldwide access classified to that same inbox anywhere you want to be. And that's not important just for managers. That's important for desk officers. I have a desk officer who embodies the knowledge of an issue and he happens to be traveling in Bujumbura. I want him to be able to be involved in the debate about how to handle that issue on every single day when he's in the office. And this SMART system will allow us to do it.

Two other aspects of the system that we are designing that are very, very important. One is that it will allow us to search the archives, the telegrams of the past, the record messages of the past, with familiar Google-type search terms. We all know how to do this on the Internet; we'll be able to do it in the classified traffic stream. The advantage of that, of course, is that it will once again make that information stream much more relevant, and people will want to report, because they will know that it will be used.

Finally, the documents won't be documents. They will be digital files of any sort. They could be pictures, maps, whatever. They will be sort of a header type part. And then the body of the thing can be anything that's relevant. And we don't really even know the power of this in the future.

We, in the European Bureau, are trying to take advantage of all these changes to redesign our own business practices, and I think that that's the power of the technology--if we can use the technology and conceive of the ways that it changes. And I don't think that we now can specify what those changes will be. I don't think that any of us understood in 1994 the power of the Internet. But the key is to experiment and to use what works. We have a website, it's called EUR right now, and the CIPRONET (sp) is accessed by almost every one of our posts every day. Why? Because we have good content that people want to know--the notes of our staff meetings, the memos to the Secretary, briefing memos on meetings--things that are valuable to people. They pull them off.

We have a post, Budapest, Hungary, which has been a cutting edge in terms of putting up a website with content that people all over the State Department may be interested in, or don't know that they are interested in--and across the CIPRONET (ph). If we can get to the point where the bouillon search that you put in at your desktop can search that website in Budapest, the website in London, and the website in Tokyo for common themes, think about how much more powerful our own research projects will be and our ability to be responsive to a Secretary.

There are other kinds of innovations that are happening. Our post in Brussels is doing a daily report of four or five items that they do at the end of their day--I mean toward the end of their day, which is toward the middle of their day, which is the beginning of our day, every single day. And that has much, much improved our ability to understand what's going on in Brussels.

Back a number of years ago our trade officers started to collaborate horizontally--we used to call this when I was out there the sort of morning hours in Europe consultation service. The idea is that we in the 15 member states of the European Union embassies, we have a great deal of expertise. Sometimes the guy who knows the most about intellectual property might be in Denmark or in Spain. And while we're asleep, they can collaborate and they can respond. It's the sort of responsive network that gives us much more power, and it's working very, very well. We are always looking for new ways to do this, and if you share this vision, the people in this room can really be very powerful advocates for this. People are always nervous about change--Ah, well, I like it the old way. The facts are the world is a helluva lot better than when you had to get your DCM's approval to call your post. And the fact is we are not about to be replaced by electrons or websites. The key to what we are doing is what it always has been: advancing the national interests in diplomacy, and these tools give us much, much more power, and allow us to do it much better. Thanks. [Applause.]

AMB. HOLMES:  Thank you, Charlie. And now I'd like to ask Deputy Assistant Secretary for Education and Cultural Affairs Steve Hart to speak to us about the role of technology and public affairs, and specifically how his bureau is using technology to assist in its worldwide exchange programs. Steve?

MR. HART:  Thank you very much. We are very excited about e-diplomacy effort in that we hope through engaging with you we find applications that we can leverage. Many of us, I think, are suffering from a mission that mandates that we accomplish certain tasks but that doesn't allow us to spend too much money on IT.

ECA is a global bureau. We move--or I should say host--30,000 visitors a year from around the world. We have 700,000 alumni of our programs. At any given moment, we have 100 programs running simultaneously. These programs vary in length of duration from 3 weeks to 1 year. They involve people from high school-age kids who are here on an academic year program, all the way up to ministers of government. And they touch on virtually every topic you can think of--from IT to emergency medicine, to water hydrology and other esoteric topics as well.

We use IT to homogenize and direct our programs with the most efficiency we can accomplish. Logistics is one of our major challenges, as is communications. What we have done is to establish a central database from which building blocks have been built to accommodate our various partners. Those partners include from NGOs, universities that work with us on a grants basis, to volunteer organizations across the United States that actually do the hosting of our visitors. We have 92 such organizations, both councils of international visitors that actually involve some tens of thousands of volunteers. You can begin to see the communications challenges. We are global, as I mentioned in the beginning, and our other key partner is our posts overseas. We also engage contractors, commonly referred to as national program agencies who help us develop the logistics and the programs and manage the actual movement of our visitors throughout the United States.

And core to our effort has been to, as I said, tailor applications to these various interests. We have something that's called the post-EBDB. Now, acronyms are a dime a dozen, but this is the exchange visitor database, and it is our keystone. From it the posts provide us information on our visitors--everything from Social--well, not Social Security number, but everything from date of birth to all pertinent information needed for application to our programs and through INS. We must--we share that information with regional bureaus that in negotiation with us choose which visitors will actually come on programs. To get away from the arcane process, once visitors are chosen we then work with our national program agencies to actually develop a program. That exchange of information has to go back and forth. They work then with the volunteer organizations that actually do the hosting on the ground. We must communicate with them as well as the national program agencies. Each one of these has a different interface with our exchange visitor database. We put a face, I guess, unique to a lot of what the State Department does to actually the American public and the public at large throughout the world. And our interchange is done in that fashion.

Other core programs or applications that we are involved in include working with INS the student exchange visitor system, SEVS (ph). This is the visa system. I think we're unique among many agencies in government in that we have actually worked with INS so that we can upload information in a batch fashion. This is all the pertinent information needed for vetting of visitors for visa applications. We also are working with the e-Diplomacy office to accommodate --to find a way that will leverage our investment with 700,000 or so alumni around the world. We have invested in them coming to the United States, learning from us through the human experience of public diplomacy. And we have no follow on to our programs. Recognizing this is potentially a waste of capital, we are trying to develop an alumni network that is value-added to our alumni, that gives them things that they can't get elsewhere, allows them to converse in chat-room forums, provides them with news about the programs they've been on, allows them to network among themselves, and allows us to track them and to query them about their progress, to report upon their follow-on activities, and to allow us to continue the dialogue with them that was established when they were in the United States.

And I think that's probably where I should stop for time's sake.

AMB. HOLMES:  Steve, thank you very much. [Applause.] The Open Forum has long had a compact with its audience: You give us an hour, we'll give you a program. We've exhausted our hour. I would ask if our panel members, and John, in particular, if you are prepared to hold on for another 5 or 6 minutes, we'd take a couple of questions, and then I'd turn it back over to Bill. Are there any questions that someone wants to--way in the back.

Q:  My name is—[inaudible]--Cultural Strategy Institute. I'm wondering if you could talk a little bit more about the digital divide that can occur here, particularly during a process of nation-building. For instance, how would diplomacy help us represent the best interests of the Kurdish people in northern Iraq? Would e-diplomacy give advantage to certain parties at the table who are–[off mike]?

AMB. HOLMES:  Anyone want to tackle that?

MR. RIES:  Well, I mean, there is a challenge, a development challenge to be addressed --there's no question about that--by making sure you can bring connectivity to all nations, and to various parts of those nations. And it's true that some national governments see the importance of that more than others. And then there are some places where parts of countries are just cut off from that infrastructure. That has to be part of what we encourage, in general: one, the development of these telecommunications nets that go out; and two, you are right, having access to this kind of a--to get on and learn about this technology. I remember very vividly the king of Jordan being here and talking at a lunch about his program to bring at least one computer to every village in Jordan, and a story, whether apocryphal or not, but that he recounted about the computer being put in place a week before the trainers came, and when the trainers got there a week afterwards the kids in the village had already figured out how to use the computer and how to get on the Internet. They didn't know everything they read on there, but they played with it enough that they could do it. And he used it to underscore the wealth of intelligence and inventiveness in his country, and he thought everywhere, if we could just make the effort to get this connectivity out there. So that--you have certainly pointed to a very important issue that we need to keep in mind and keep working at.

Q:  I'm Paul Mazuku (ph) with City of Mind, and we appreciate this. But I am interested in Mr. Petersen, Ambassador Ries, and Ambassador Wayne possibly commenting on this idea of an arena of competing stories. That sounds fascinating. Thanks.

MR. PETERSEN:  Well, as I understand it from the reading that I did about this, there is this extraordinary ability now that anyone from wherever they come from can publish, if you will, their own perspectives, anywhere in the world. That was not possible 10 years ago. The World Wide Web only was invented--not by Al Gore--10 years ago. That was the Internet, not the World Wide Web. Anyway, and now you have this evolution--essentially the power is going to the people to be able to--and certainly as the technology becomes more transparent and ubiquitous that anybody anywhere can do a web log, if you are familiar with web logs, and the ability to put up your own thoughts. There's a huge kind of movement on the web now where anybody anywhere can put their own--everyday publish their own opinions, whatever that has to do anywhere. And so what you have is the underlying technology that suddenly connects anybody anywhere to be able to publish anything that they want. But, more than that, the ability of people of like minds to get together for either good or bad around that technology and publish their stories. So there essentially are kind of amazing abilities for anyone to share their basic perspectives. There are a lot of problems with that associated with credibility and who's who--are you really talking to a man, or are you talking to a little girl in junior high school, or whatever it turns out to be- there's a lot of interesting issues associated with it. But that's the basic notion.

AMB. HOLMES:  Thank you, John. Charlie, do you want to add something?

MR. RIES:  Two seconds on this. I mean, that's true and very interesting. But from the standpoint of within at least the European Bureau, we also are interested in having a communications vehicle that has reliability and authentication associated with it. When the ambassador in Paris is going to see the foreign minister and speaking on behalf of the United States of America, we need to know that he's authorized--he has instructions that are authorized. And so we can't totally let 1,000 flowers bloom. We have to have a process that gives us what we have with the telegram now. With the telegram comes--and you know that it's an instruction--and you can act upon it, in a world of distributed processing and multimedia and digital things. And what we are trying to do is capture both of those kinds of things. We are trying to benefit from the network technology while still retaining for record traffic that are instructions on behalf of the U.S. Government that we know that the Secretary of State or the President has authorized us to speak on his behalf. And we need to set up a system where that ambassador, carrying out that instruction, can get a reply. What did he learn? What were his insights? What did he think would come next? And that gets flashed right back to the Secretary of State and on his desk as fast as possible.

AMB. HOLMES:  One final question at the microphone here.

Q:  Yes. My name is Gabriel Costa Malkulachic (ph). I'm a spouse of a diplomat, and also formerly worked at Apple Computer and Palm as an executive there. One of the questions that I have- actually I have a lot of questions, but I am just going to ask one--is: Are you studying anything that would improve the way people use the tools that you are talking about? I will give you a good example. E-mail is as big of a problem right now to business that it is a benefit--how people—[inaudible]. As an example, I used to get 300 e-mails a day, and that was impossible to cope with. The same thing is happening now with groups--user groups. People don't know how to communicate or how to converse. Word processing is the same--12 years of word processing has not produced better writers. [Laughter.] So are we looking at those things --are you guys looking at those things? And how do--one of the things that was mentioned is better practices. But more into how humans think and communicate instead of just putting technology out there for the fact of it. And I would love to hear some of the thoughts.

MR. RIES:  The people who serve on the steering group with me know that this is a big theme of mine as well, that the way I characterize it is filters. We need to, as we design new systems and as we continue to approach it, we need to take--when you ask users, they all tell you the same thing. I get about 20 an hour e-mails coming in, and it's hard to manage them. And if I read my telegrams, there would be 50 an hour or 100 an hour. But I don't very often. People send me telegrams by e-mail, which aggravates the e-mail problem.

What we need is the ability to ask the systems questions. You know, to use Google terms, bullion search things to be able to filter things, to say, today I am interested in Poland. I am interested in Poland and aviation--I want everything on Poland and aviation. I want it right now. I am not interested for the moment in Malta and agriculture--or something like that. And we are trying to design a system that gives the users control, so that they can both benefit from the explosion and the ability to be able to ask about Malta and agriculture in a nanosecond but the ability not to be beat down by Malta and agriculture.

It also requires some discipline on the part of the sender. E-mail is, after all, like a telephone call. It's a direct message from me to you. I am able to name the addressee. And I run, as people in the European Bureau know, I am pretty fierce on reply-alls. I don't like people who hit reply-all to put their two cents on an original message. My view is that if someone has something to say to me, they should address it to me, and it should be sharp and to the point. And you know we have--there are issues there. Within an organization, if you have any influence, you can change the culture of the way of using e-mails. And, you know, for the first years of cell phones, you'd hear cell phones ringing all the time in movie theaters, in theaters, and in restaurants and so forth--and people have gotten better about that. So I think that you can't judge a technology by the way people kind of go crazy when you first give it to them, but what we need to do is without dictatorial approach give people the tools--give them the positive encouragement to use them, and let sort of the free enterprise market show that people who use it the right way are much more effective than people who use it the wrong way.

AMB. HOLMES:  Thank you very much. I think we are going to have to call a halt to this. I want to turn it back to Bill. Bill, do you want to wrap it up for us, please?

MR. KEPPLER:  Yes. We set out at the beginning of today's program to identify the challenges and to highlight the opportunities presented to us by the revolution in technology, to better enable us to manage the conduct of foreign affairs and foreign relations. And I want to say to each one of my distinguished program participation, I think mission accomplished, well done. And I want to thank them all. [Applause.]

Before you go, I just want to briefly tell you about some upcoming Open Forum programs. On March 11, we'll have a program: "Civil Society's Critical Role in Securing and Sustaining Peace and Stability." This will be cosponsored by the Women Waging Peace Organization here in Washington, DC. On April 22, we'll have an Earth Day program. We will be talking about deforestation, illegal logging, and a myriad of global impacts. On April 30, I am proud to announce that Senator Chuck Hagel will be coming down to address the State Department and the Open Forum constituency about the essentiality of diplomacy and coalition in confronting global challenges and conflicts. And in the beginning of May, we'll have a program: "Islam: It's Compatibility With Democracy and the Challenges of Bringing Democracy to Islamic Nations, Peoples and Governments."

So stay tuned. Visit our website for more information about upcoming programs. I'd like to leave you with this one final word: Right next door there is a technology exhibit that will give a three-dimensional impact to everything that we discussed today, and it will show how we can translate what we talked about today into a reality. So I would encourage each of you to take advantage of it and visit the science fair in our exhibit hall, which is right behind the auditorium. Once again, thank you for extraordinary efforts in coming today. We enjoyed having you. Thank you very much. [Applause.] Thank you very much.


Released on February 25, 2003

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