Monitoring Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s current Asia-Pacific trip online has led me to a surprising and refreshing discovery — Hillary is the ultimate online diplomat.
Hillary and the State Department proactively engage the international community in ways the Australian Government could only dream of (as a forthcoming Lowy Institute publication on e-diplomacy will lay out). I realised seconds into a google search that in fact I won't need to chase down Hillary Clinton, it’s almost as if, Hillary is chasing me.
Hillary and her team twitter, facebook, blog, (share photos through) flickr and youtube their way around the world with precision and transparency. Hillary's online presence is articulate, accessible and clear-cut. And I, as one member of our 6.9 billion international community, have an all–access pass.
If there is bureaucratic interference from Capital Hill this red tape is cut through with haste. Large amounts of diverse and surprisingly interesting content is online within 24 hours.
Information about her current Asia-Pacific trip has been downloaded to her website and onto her blog immediately. Want to know how the US embassy in New Zealand has planned for her arrival read about it here. Interested in her trip to Malaysia, watch some of it here. Want to know how Hillary filled her four hours in Papua New Guinea, her staff have blogged on it here. Have opinions on how the US should enhance their Pacific engagement? Good, because the US government wants to know and asks that you share your thoughts here.
This level of proactive online engagement with the international community simply does not exist here in Australia. Foreign Minister Kevin Rudd's rather dull ministerial website is uninspiring and provides little opportunity for interaction. The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) website is colourful but confusing. DFAT's 'About Australia' section leaves everything to the imagination.
These websites are the international face of Australia's foreign policy and are as important as Australia's 89 international embassies. Why? Because they are easily and cheaply accessible to those with access to the internet, all two billion of us, the majority of which are in the Asia–Pacific.
As far as I can see there are no blogs, videos, twitter, facebook, places for comment or any other tools available where I can attain a higher level of interaction than 'click–and–read'. Trawling through recent media releases, transcripts and speeches is about as engaged as you can get.
Kevin Rudd does have a personal twitter which is a plus with its close to one million followers. Unfortunately for DFAT this twitter goes where Rudd goes and is not a permanent fixture to Australia's online foreign policy.
As I leave a comment on Hillary Clinton's interactive travel map, she's in Wellington, NZ: photos show Foreign Minister Murray McCully meeting her off the plane, I start to wonder where our Foreign Minister is? His website shows me that he is somewhere between an interview with Tony Jones and a doorstop in Beijing.
The DFAT website shows me a photo of him in South Korea at the G-20. I make the mistake of thinking his twitter will point me to the right country. Instead of pinpointing our Foreign Minister's whereabouts I am subjected to a conversation between him and Premier Mike Rann on facial hair. I may not be able to chase down Rudd but I am reminded that it's Movember.
Photo by Flickr user U.S. Department of State, used under a Creative Commons license.