Friday

Pesta Blogger 2009: Broadening the scope of Public Diplomacy

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As we discuss the need & possibility of broadening the understanding of Public Diplomacy in India, there have been some interesting developments around the world with PD 2.0 worth taking note of.

Last week, I received this interesting bit of information from the US state department that the U.S. Embassy in Jakarta, Indonesia, is sponsoring Pesta Blogger 2009 - Indonesia’s only national-level bloggers’ gathering for the second consecutive year. The bloggers gathering took place on Oct. 24, 2009 in which four US bloggers including Arsalan Iftikhar, prominent American Muslim blogger and Mark Frauenfelder, founder of a leading technology blog participated. The US embassy in Jakarta has also been sponsoring a series of blogging workshops in 10 cities across Indonesia attracting more than one thousand people. The idea is to encourage people to blog and impart the principles of citizen journalism. U.S. Ambassador Cameron R. Hume said: “The Embassy is proud to support and sponsor Pesta Blogger for the second year running. Freedom of expression is an integral part of any sustainable democratic system. Indonesia has a strong, vibrant democracy, and the robust growth of its blogging community indicates this.”

Tristram D. Perry at the US embassy in Jakarta (whom I had emailed) said that the state department is doing a lot with social media worldwide but in every country the strategy differs as per the local conditions. He said, “Different cultures and nations are unique in their use of technology, so that for example, in Indonesia, while Facebook enjoys almost 10 million members here (of a total 30 million people actually on the internet monthly or more frequently) podcasts or webchats are very rare. I can only really speak to Indonesia, but as you can see we are right on the ground floor of the most socially active segment of online society. For whether it is having an impact, I would have to refer you to the Pew Global attitudes poll.”

“Blogger relations” is commonly practised in corporate communications. I personally feel it’s innovative to engage bloggers and package it with promoting “freedom of expression” and “democracy” ( common themes in US foreign policy communications). This willingness to try different mediums, irrespective of the ability to accurately measure impact and facilitate discussions, conversations on topics of “one’s own choosing” can actually work wonders in advancing “influence”. Its an attempt to go beyond and being proactive.

Suggestions/Critiques welcome

Madhur

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