On Friday, many of us were at the airport leaving sunny Malta after an invigorating 38th International Forum on Diplomatic Training. Quite a few were in the long queue waiting to check in. Ambassador Winkler walked directly to the next counter and dropped his luggage. And no, it was not a special diplomatic privilege; it was an example of using e-tools in smart way. Ambassador Winkler had checked in online from the hotel, thus saving himself from long queues.
Why is this relevant for e-diplomacy? It is an excellent illustration of what e-diplomacy is all about. It is an example of using e-tools in a simple and practical way. Most of these tools surround us and are VERY simple to use, as is e-check-in. The same can be applied for almost any one of our activities, especially routine ones, whether it is group drafting, preparing briefs, or reporting. But (and as usual there is a ‘but’) the problem is with inertia. Inertia shapes our personal reality and more especially our institutional reality. It reflects how we have been doing things and our reluctance to change. For example, I am used to checking in at the airport and although I think myself familiar with so many e-tools, I did not use e-check-in.
As you may recall from our session in e-diplomacy, the main idea was to show what e-tools exist (both Richard and Marilia), to explain a few usages, and to leave it up to all of us to ‘join the dots’ and see how these tools can help us, And ultimately, we would face the main challenge – changing our habits.
Now, one can ask the question ‘why should I bother?’ Ultimately, on Friday all of us present ended up sitting in the airplane taking off Malta. But the more people start using e-tools, the more problematic it will be to do things in the same old way. To resist, is to create professional disadvantage in promoting our countries, being well-informed in negotiations, having powerful networks with civil society and business…. the list of emerging advantages of e-diplomacy can continue.
Next time I will use e-check-in. It will be my small attempt to challenge the iron rule of inertia, still dominant force in human society. So, hands up…how many of you checked in online prior to leaving for the airport?
From Zurich Airport waiting for connecting flight to Geneva (1.1.20100
Note for those who did not attend the International Forum on Diplomatic Training (Malta, 29-30 September 2010):
Ambassador Hans Winkler is the director of the Vienna Academy of Diplomatic Studies, Richard Boyl is the director of e-diplomacy at the State Department, Marilia Maciel is the researcher at Getulio Vargas Foundation, Brazil