Data diplomacy: updating diplomacy to the big data era

Data diplomacy: updating diplomacy to the big data era

Data is often described as a critical resource of modern society, or even the oil of the new economy. Vast amounts of data are generated every day through the use of electronic devices and the Internet. The private sector has begun to harness big data sources to improve their products and services, streamline procedures, and ultimately increase revenues. Big data analysis is said to create insights that were hitherto unavailable. What is the position of diplomats, who rely on data and information in their everyday work, in this changing environment? Some ministries of foreign affairs (MFAs) and international organisations are tentatively exploring the uses of big data for policy planning, knowledge management, development, humanitarian action, and emergency response, recognising the potential benefits. Yet, there is still a large number of perceived obstacles that prevent others from stepping on board the big data train.

This report aims to increase the awareness of the opportunities, limitations, and challenges of the big data trend, and to understand how MFAs could adapt their work, procedures, and organisational structures to the big data era. In this report, we provide a broad overview of the main opportunities of big data in different diplomatic fields and functions, and highlight the key issues that need to be addressed for big data diplomacy to flourish. This framework of possibilities and constraints opens up a diversity of applications and implications that can be explored in further detail, and is meant to inform MFAs that are exploring big data to adapt diplomatic practice to the datadriven era where possible and feasible.

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