Online Diplomacy

kpeters@govexec.com

The phenomenal growth in telecommunications and information technology is not lost on the State Department. To get a handle on the technology revolution's impact on the art of statecraft, the department yesterday hosted the first of five seminars in a series entitled "Reinventing Diplomacy and Development for on Online World."

"Half the people in the world today do not have telephones," said J. Brian Atwood, administrator of the Agency for International Development, at yesterday's seminar. "But that is changing."

And it is changing fast. According to James P. Bond, chief of the World Bank's Telecommunications and Informatics Division, worldwide Internet technology grew by 94 percent from 1990 to 1995; cellular phone technology by 51 percent; and telephone technology by 5.8 percent.

The telecommunications boon holds much promise for the developing world, Bond said. Information technology can reduce the isolation of poor, remote regions of the world; open business opportunities; improve education and health care; and enable governments to become more efficient and more democratic.

"It is the end of geography," Bond said.

The State Department seminar series, conducted in cooperation with AID, the U.S. Information Agency and the Department of Commerce, is designed to promote critical discussion in the diplomatic and international business communities. Future topics include: reengineering diplomacy and development through information technology (April 11), getting wired for diplomacy and development (May 13), electronic commerce and international trade (June 10) and information technology for crisis diplomacy (July 8).

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