State Department uses eDiplomacy for outreach

Thursday - 6/24/2010, 6:44pm EDT

By Olivia Branco
Federal News Radio

The State Department likes to stay ahead of the curve.

The agency, which began their eDiplomacy taskforce in 2002, wants to be able to connect their diplomats around the world. And they're using the power of the Internet to do it.

Richard Boly, director at the Office of eDiplomacy, says the technology and programs available to State Department employees are crucial to diplomatic success.

"One of the reasons we've been so successful, is what diplomats do is this bringing people together, having broad networks, tapping into those networks, identifying expertise," says Boly. "This just gives us another platform to do that."

One of the main programs available to State Department employees is the Diplomedia. The program began in 2006 and is essentially the Department's own version of Wikipedia. Diplomedia's goal is to share information among employees.

"Diplomats ... turn over in their job every one, two or three years. So institutional memory is a tremendous challenge," says Boly. "This is a perfect way to have living document, where you have something that can be changed, and will sit there until the next person turns up in the chair, needs to solve that problem, and maybe something has changed, and if so that person can go in, edit it on the fly and update it."

Boly says one of the benefits of programs like Diplomedia or the Department's upcoming professional networking platform is that they enable a quicker use of talent.

Employees can get information about people and places in order to get adjusted to a new post.

More casual and day-to-day information can also help employees with their jobs.

The eDiplomacy is certainly not without its own critics.

"We've tried to win over people one group at a time," Boly says, "helping them solve a problem, having them then be evangelists to use this tool more broadly."

Boly notes that there have been some bumps in the road to get his department's initiatives off the ground and that it's important to remember if other agencies try similar tactics.

"The important thing for everybody who is considering this to understand is that it's not going to happen over night," says Boly. "You have a change management process that you need to convince your superiors that it has value. But it's not going to be a solution that everybody is going to embrace overnight."

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