Every state in the world tries to validate their policies in both inside and outside. Their main policies are to preserve national interests and take them to forward. In this sense, foreign policy which is important for obtaining targets has 2 ingredients.
What is Digital Diplomacy
These are the objectives that are determined by domestic actors and tools that are used to obtain these objectives. At this point, diplomacy stands out as the most important tool in achiving states objectives. It represents good side of statecraft and it can be defined as the business of conducting relations between countries through peaceful methods such as communication, representation and negotiation. But diplomacy is affected by technological developments as everything else.
The point where technology has come, evolution of advances and revolution it has created reshapes international relations and practices to a great extent. The digital world, where information, communication, people and many other important things are carried, is a structure that state should be there and use the developments as required by the main goals of diplomacy. In this sense, many states have started to produce policies on the combination of digitalization and diplomatic practices. In this article, what digital diplomacy is, its effects, damages, applications and digital diplomacy practices of the Republic of Turkey will be analyzed.
Firstly, according to Gökhan Yücel, the world is in the diplomacy 3.0 era which represents digital diplomacy because for him, there are 4 types of diplomacy. These are diplomacy 1.0 which represents classic diplomacy, diplomacy 2.0 which represents public diplomacy, diplomacy 3.0 which represents digital diploamcy and diplomacy 4.0 which represents post-diplomacy area (Yücel, 2016). What are these diplomacy types;
Classic diplomacy whics is diplomacy 1.0 can be described as a type of diplomacy preserving the national interests, aims, giving respect to sovereignity and borders on the basis of some legal norms and rules. Bilateral relation is the main determiner to give directions to system. Hard power, propaganda, protocol and procedures are important for classical diplomacy. In briefly, it can be described as a diplomacy of people who wear black suit. In this sense, classic diplomacy subjects are leaders of state, diplomats and formal representatives. The extent of this diplomacy type is state to state relations. Classic diplomacy represents formal, closed, secret and state to state diplomacy types.
In contrast to classic diplomacy, public diplomacy which represents diplomacy 2.0 can be described as transparent, open and states to nation diplomacy type. The hard power and hard propaganda are not used. Instead of them, strategic communication and soft power are important. It is type of diplomacy which try to create public in terms of some principle. These principles consist consent, acceptance and liking. While affordind these principles using media or other soft power tools are important to ensure and create public perception. Vital thing is construct deep-rooted relations. People who have only citizenship status can find the area to be represented. Civil area which classic diplomacy does not give importance is crucially important for public diplomacy. Creating awareness about state policy, impress and attract of peoples will, reaching large masses and having to make masses to move for state’s ideology are 4 stage of public diplomacy.
Digital diplomacy which is diplomacy 3.0 and the main topic of this article can be described as using digital devices to maintain diplomacy, creating relations, solving problems and doing other statecrafts things. With technological developments and rapid spread, their effects can be felt in every area. Foreign policy and other things that have connection with state also are affected by technological developments. By providing new type of connection and social features, technology paves the way for new foreign policy and diplomatic applications. Furthermore, digital novelties recreate diplomacy structure. Because there is no room, no protocol, no delay, no strict rules for diplomacy. In this type of diplomacy, everythings occur at real time, new actors like citizens who have accession to internet find the space to be represented and to effect the policies. Through these features and promising new things, digital diplomacy has started to play mojor role in diplomacy. Every state in the world has started to be interested in this new type of diplomacy.
Post-diplomacy is the type of diplomacy that is shaped by thoughts of theoriticans. Post-diplomacy represents the next level of diplomacy applications. With new advances and improvements that occurs in the future, will recreate the diplomacy. In briefly, it can be described as next level-diplomacy.
The Evolution of Digital Diplomacy
Secondly, development of technology which was started with industrial revolution reaches more advanced level day by day. Technology and improvements that are connected with it effect all the things which involve indivisual, state and structural levels. Especially, digitalisation and web 2.0 process which were occured after 1990s brought new important actors to world system. The most important features of digitalization are that individuals make production in the digital world with web 2.0 and that technology offers the right to disseminate information. These features have made a new revolution, especially in the field of communication. Developments in the digital world are real-time, transient and unlimited.
In addition, these developments pose a threat to traditional media. Because the number of users and memberships to social media applications brought by the digital era can compete with many countries with a large population. These developments and the integration of technology into life has turned the attention of states to the digital world. States seek to exist in the digital world and to be an influencer in this world. At this point, the concept of digital diplomacy started to emerge. Many states have sought to be an influencer in the digital field and to maintain their relations in this world. The USA created a state plan with the name of the 21st Century Statecraft.
Many states, especially Israel, started to transmit their diplomatic applications to the digital world. For this, they created various trainings and programs. However, with all these features and innovations, what digital diplomacy literally means is a contradictory issue. Actually, digital diplomacy generally expresses the effect of technology on diplomatic applications. According to Manor and Segev, digital diplomacy is the use of social media (The biggest innovation brought by digitallisation) by governments to achieve their goals. Another contradictory issue is whether digital diplomacy is a new type of diplomacy or not. In this sense, many theorists define digital diplomacy as a new type because it has no protocol, real-time, open 24 hours, and intangible. But digital diplomacy is not a new type of diplomacy and is linked to public diplomacy. The reason for this is that digital diplomacy applications are public diplomacy applications in general. The only difference is that these applications are happening in the digital world. It was previously stated that the general functions of diplomacy are communication, representation and negotiation, and different diplomacy approaches were discussed.
At this point, it is digital diplomacy to perform these functions in the digital world. In other words, the subjects, approaches and goals of public diplomacy and digital diplomacy are same. What is new is that applications are run over the digital world. In this sense, virtual ambassadors and virtual embassies can be given as important implementation changes. For example, Israel educates ordinary citizens with the “Hasbara” project, turns them into virtual diplomats and uses them for image building via social media.
In addition, Denmark and some other European countries establish virtual embassies and carry out some important works in the virtual world. Foreign ministries and diplomats take their business to the virtual world. They use official websites and official social media accounts for this. At this point, diplomats represent their countries through the digital world. In addition to these application changes, the aims of public diplomacy and digital diplomacy are the same; Creating public opinion and building image. These two purposes are proof that digital diplomacy is not a new type. The difference is that traditional media practices are used in public diplomacy, while social media applications are used in the digital diplomacy. In addition, it should not be overlooked that both use the soft power element.
The main actors are individuals besides states, and reaching 2-3 billion users is important for using the digital world. By using digital elements, states and their actors find the right to reach billions of people and to have their policies accepted.
Thirdly, It is very important to understand digital diplomacy well. In this sense, it should be noted that digital diplomacy has both good and bad features. As stated earlier, the capacity for impact, the number of members, and the ability to interact in real time are important benefits of digital diplomacy for public opinion and image building. In addition to these benefits, it has low cost ratio, being easily accessible by everyone and providing access especially to the young population are other important functions. In contrast to these benefits of digital diplomacy, some bad aspects need to be highlighted. Because the digital world is a place of disinformation.
It is very important to access and analyze reliable information. Because disinformation in this world create huge problems. Apart from this, other important problems are that digital diplomacy is not original, that is, it is a continuation of public diplomacy and its impact cannot be fully measured. Because the interaction in this world is at a virtual level. The perception made is a contradictory situation or how the implemented policies have an effect. In this sense, the number of likes or interactions can not reveal the real situation. The virtual impact can be high, but the real world impact is more important. Another issue is that the digital world is not only used by governments, terrorist organizations, criminals and similar structures also see the digital world as an element and use it against states. In this sense, they are in a race with states.
Another important problem is that the importance of personal accounts becomes more important than the accounts of states. This situation degrades diplomacy to an individual level. It brings people to the fore more than the institutions of the states. Finally, it is the problem of diplomacy in general via Twitter. While there are so many different effects in the digital world, a single application dominates the whole area. This situation often causes digital diplomacy to be referred to as twitter diplomacy.
With Covid 19, the world is experiencing things it has not experienced before. Distance and other too many rules have been applied. The economic, social and political systems are being rebuilt because pandemic continues to affect all sectors. But while all this is happening, technological developments and the use of technological tools are increasing incredibly. Educations, communications and other things are carried out through online applications. At this point, the applications of the international system, including states, had to be integrated into the digital world. Many of states have started to carry out their bilateral and multilateral relations over the digital world.
The Republic of Turkey and its institutions have made various arrangements to be integrated into the system in this sense. But first of all, it should be noted that digital diplomacy practices for Turkey date back to the early 2010s, although not very deep. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs has emerged as the most important institution that guides digital diplomacy efforts. Factors such as various studies, trainings and technological infrastructure installation by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs are the first steps for digital diplomacy. The first example of digital diplomacy for Turkey took place in 2011.
The Republic of Turkey rescued 4 USA journalists who were captured in Libya through online contacts (Milliyet, 2011). In addition, all relevant information on the subject shared with the world via Twitter. At this point, Turkey both created a public opinion for itself and built a new image of Turkey as a savior. Despite this and many other events, it should be noted that digital diplomacy practices for Turkey were generally carried out through personal accounts. The Ministry did not do important studies in those days, and social media only served an informative function in general. Digital diplomacy tools have remained in the background for the Republic of Turkey within the framework of agenda setting and communication activities.
The USA, on the other hand, has created a state plan as stated before. For them, the use of digital tools is especially important for creating perception. In this sense, internet and social media policies after the September 11 attacks and lately against to Iran were important. In addition, many European Union countries increased the use of digital tools in diplomacy. Diplomatic information exchanges were carried out over the digital world with various agreements (Announcement and sharing of criminals, economical information, etc.).
Development of digital diplomacy in Turkey
For Turkey, on the other hand, many studies have been carried out until 2015, and the years 2015 and 2016 are important in terms of using digital tools for diplomacy. After 2015, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs made improvements in the internet base. Especially the web page has started to contain many languages and information. In addition, the training given to diplomats has been increased. 2016 is a very important year for the use of social media by the state and diplomats. Social media was used to inform the public and the world, to create public opinion and to create an agenda during especially after the coup attempt in 2016.
In this sense, Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s calling his people to the street through the online platform stands out. After this date, Turkey started to use digital tools, especially Twitter, more effectively. Recep Tayyip Erdogan today has a total of 26 million followers almost on Instagram and Twitter. At this point, he has much more followers than many leaders. In addition, other specially formed institutions and diplomats have started to use their social media accounts more effectively. According to the 2016 Digital Diplomacy Report, Turkey ranked 25th.
Being among the top 25 countries among 210 countries is a very important value for Turkey. In the same report, the foreign minister ranks second. In all of these, Turkey has increased its research and applications year by year, and the digital world has been used by Turkey for many purposes such as providing information, creating agenda and public opinion, and image building. With the pandemic process, the whole world has become obliged to integrate its policies into the digital world. The closure of many sectors, curfews and distance rules put people in a difficult position as well as states. In this period, technological developments gained great importance with the use of online applications. While all sectors lost, the technology sector made a profit. Because technology has begun to be used both at the individual level and at the state level.
All talks and negotiations started to be carried out online. At this point, Turkey has established a technological coordination and support unit to integrate with the world. Turkey participated the talks at foreign policy summits via online systems. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs continued its work and the importance and practices of digital diplomacy were reiterated at the 11th ambassadors meeting. In other words, digital tools have been used for diplomacy, both inside and outside.
One of the most important examples is that the United Nations plenary session is held online. While representatives attended the meeting, other leaders, including Recep Tayyip Erdogan, attended the meeting online. In addition to multiple talks, bilateral talks generally continued through the digital world in this period. Training and various webinars were held online. Other points are e-consulate and e-government applications. In Turkey, like other states, it has carried out many works over the internet (such as connection with citizens living in other countries and passport and visa procedures), and the e-government application, which has existed for a long time, has continued to be used in various applications and document acquisition.
Other points that should be emphasized during the pandemic period in the use of digital diplomacy for Turkey are the practices of the Ministry of Health. The Ministry of Health institution and its minister were established to inform the citizens and the world, especially on social media via data sharing. At this point, the posts that received the most interaction were the posts of the Ministry of Health.
In conclusion, the main purpose of foreign policy is to protect national interests. At this point, diplomacy stands out as a very important tool for foreign policy applications. State-state or state-public relations are shaped within the framework of diplomatic practices. There are many different types of diplomacy for this like traditional and public diplomacy. Since technology affects everything in the world, it has become necessary to use technology at this point, as it affects the state administration. Thanks to all these developments, the concept of digital diplomacy has emerged. Digital diplomacy, which has similar features with public diplomacy in general, is the execution of diplomatic applications over technology.
The use of the digital world, which has increased its influence with technological developments, is a necessity for states and their actors. In this sense, states have taken various initiatives and brought their diplomatic tools to the digital world. The reason for this is that it causes significant improvements in cost, effect, time and many aspects. Turkey, like many other states in the World, started its digital diplomacy policies under the leadership of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in order to take advantage of the effects of the digital world. Digital diplomacy studies, which were generally based on individual policies in the early days, have become more institutional with trainings and infrastructure services. Especially, the use of social media for creating public opinion, image building and agenda has increased. Attaching much more importance to this point after 2015, Turkey made a great breakthrough in 2016.
Today, it is at an important point in the world, especially in terms of leaders and followers. In addition, thanks to the structure created, the relations between states and people were carried out very easily through the digital world during the pandemic period. Leaders and diplomats have used the digital world as a particularly informative space. Although the digital world has some risks in information security and many other issues, these effects are minimized with security applications created by the state.
Research by Ahmet YILMAZ