In the US the current Secretary of State, John Kerry, has said "Of course there’s no such thing any more as effective diplomacy that doesn’t put a sophisticated use of technology at the center of all we’re doing to help advance our foreign policy objectives, bridge gaps between people across the globe, and engage with people around the world and right here at home," and "The term digital diplomacy is almost redundant — it’s just diplomacy, period."
Many other nations have taken similar steps to introduce digital channels, particularly social media, into their diplomatic suite.
Australia, until recently, was regarded as a laggard in digital diplomacy. I've heard us described on forums for diplomatic staff as highly conservative and as potentially damaging our diplomatic efforts through taking an excessively risk-averse approach to using social media in diplomacy.
Fortunately this has changed over the last year, with the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) having become far more active in digital channels to promote the values and character of Australia.
Under the auspices of DFAT, Australia now operates over 60 social media accounts for digital diplomatic ends, including 22 Twitter, 30 Facebook, three each for YouTube and Flickr, a blog and China-specific accounts on the Sina Microblog, Sina Blog and Youku (a YouTube equivalent).
I've briefly analysed these accounts, which you can view at: https://docs.google.com/spreadsheet/ccc?key=0Ap1exl80wB8OdDF6YTVKZWt1MGh5UEIwaFVZZ19pTEE&usp=sharing
DFAT's social media accounts now cover around 60 countries and, while most were established in 2012 or 2013, they are already growing Australia's digital diplomatic reach and influence.
Countries covered by DFAT social media accounts at 4 November 2013
While Australia still lags powerhouses like the UK, which has over 240 international Twitter accounts alone and the US, which now has over 300 Facebook page and is tweeting in over 11 languages, we've definitely established ourselves in the second tier of countries engaged in digital diplomacy.
We're roughly equivalent to countries like Ireland, or Canada, both of which have just over 30 Twitter accounts and between 60 and 80 social media accounts overall in use for diplomatic purposes.
This is a sold start - although it has occurred without a broad and public discussion of how to most effectively use social media in diplomacy, as in countries such as the USA and Canada.
Hopefully as DFAT builds its skill base and guidance, we'll see less broadcast and more engagement by embassies and ambassadors online - more public conversation that leads to real and valuable diplomatic and economic outcomes from these channels.
After all, with civilian populations and governments alike increasingly engaging each other on social media, being absent online excludes an agency or government from important conversations and allows others without Australia's best interests at heart to fill the gap.
Below is my consolidated list of DFAT's social media accounts, drawn from DFAT's media page and current at 4 November 2013.