Adopting Tech And Trade Diplomacy

GP Acharya

The Ministry of Information and Communications Technology has proposed a vision of “Digital Nepal” in its ICT Policy- 2015. As per this vision, ICT will be a key driving force in transforming Nepali society into knowledge and information based society and economy. As per the ICT policy, Nepal will strive towards enhancing overall national ICT readiness with the objective of being at least in the top second quartile of international ICT development index and e-governance ranking by 2020.

Digital shift
To achieve these goals, Nepal has to make digital shift by creating an ample space and investment climate for the qualitative growth of ICT. Technology can be a key instrument for a country like Nepal which can help attain economic and security success. Yet, Nepal has to benefit from norms concerning ethics and data privacy. For this, a centralised platform must be established such that the emerging ICT entrepreneurs can invest heavily in e-platforms. For instance, the recently launched Social Security Scheme of the Government will have giant data and huge investment. Data security of all the employees including their personal information needs to be maintained ethically. In case of assembling of the giant data, unethically, from such data center and getting information may pose threat to national security.
Technology has been a very powerful tool that is going to decide which country will emerge as the world’s dominant power in the long run. China is seeking leadership in liberal world order and has aimed at making the country a high-tech superpower by 2025. Politically, China is adopting Marxist approach and diplomatically espousing Soft Power Fixture Strategy. But economically, China is benefitting from liberalism through the Darwinian system of capitalism. And, technically, it has set a goal of algorithmic governance with a vision of tech supremacy. With this goal, China has aimed for high tech authoritarian future and is developing competitive applications like image and voice recognition to make their surveillance system stronger. China has massively invested in artificial intelligence (AI) and face recognition technology assuming that surveillance and control remain under the control of the regime. According to Department of Defense, China is in the process to deploy AI-powered drones and automated submarines in large numbers in Asia to counter American tech hegemony. For this, China has conducted operation test for 119 drones in 2017 to demonstrate its tech capability.
In addition, China has installed 200 million surveillance cameras around the nation which is four times higher than that of America. This shows China’s concern in national security and the long-term vision of tech policy. Chinese technocrats believe that information and data security are essential components for their national security. Data has shown that China’s 80 per cent of GDP growth is determined by the application of new technology whereas only 20 per cent is driven by traditional labour and capital.
Nation states are not only the players in diplomacy and economy today; some tech companies are also influencing diplomacy. Tech companies are now emerging so powerful that their power can be transformed into political and diplomatic influence, maybe a role similar to that of nation-states in international affairs. Companies like Apple, Google, and Microsoft, among others, may challenge governance in the near future. Conceivably, Microsoft will be sending ambassadors to different states around the world and Google will be having an influencing place in the UN Security Council.
By now, Denmark has been the first state to appoint world’s first Tech ambassador in 2017. Similarly, France appointed a Tech ambassador to the Silicon Valley as “ambassador for digital affairs” at the beginning of 2018. International digital strategy has been a focus of foreign policy of France, today. Sweden established a virtual embassy in the popular virtual world Second Life in 2007. The US State department launched virtual embassy in Teheran in 2011 and Israel launched its first virtual embassy in 2013.
Possibly, states will appoint AI diplomats and AI military for diplomacy and defense someday. These intelligent machine diplomats will be representing the states and negotiate on the table on behalf of respective governments. AI Diplomats would play a significant role in foreign policy decision making as they won’t be guided by any political ego; they can think several steps ahead and can act rational to promote and protect the national interest.
A new world order is emerging around tech giants and multi-national companies rather than only on nations and their borders. The world’s top tech companies are making more international influence and economic power than some dozens of nations joined together. For instance, Tech giant Apple had an economic output of $87.00 billion in 2014 which is nearly equal to the Oman’s GDP ($82.00 billion) in 2014. Apple alone had hand-cash more than the GDP of two-third of the countries in the world in 2016. And, Apple’s annual turnover is nearly same as the GDP of Denmark, now. Alibaba, an e-commerce giant in China, has been selling goods worth $14.30 billion in a day which is more than the Chad’s annual GDP ($14.00 billion). Amazon, another e-commerce giant has active users 244 million which is nearly equal to the population of Brazil (204 million).
Nepal has to initiate virtual embassy through the practice of digital diplomacy that can help create meaningful interactions with foreign countries where Nepal has not established diplomatic relations yet. While, Nepal cannot set up diplomatic missions across the world due to its limited resources, virtual embassy helps to fill these gaps. This will certainly enable Nepal to enhance its global image, increase media visibility, attract FDI, promote tourism and amass soft power resources. Nepal has to strategically employ its social media accounts in order to exploit its soft power and cultures and brand itself as a land of peace, culture, traditions, natural resources and opportunities.

The world is marching ahead with digital revolution and it is going to witness the biggest geo-political revolution in human history. Since technological revolution helps increase the overall productivity of the global economy, the main job of the government has to be adopting tech and trade diplomacy, managing the economy and controlling technology for the greater good of the people, society and the nation. Indeed, Nepal has to embrace technologies to manage the society and economy and has to think of Algorithmic Governance for surveillance, security and coding laws such that Nepal too can imagine for building a high tech security future.
(Acharya is a researcher who holds Master’s Degree in Computer Science and Statistics)

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