Alec Ross, the Senior Advisor for Innovation in Secretary Clinton’s office made some remarks last week on 21st Century Statecraft - Diplomacy in the Age of Facebook and Twitter at the Foreign Press Center in New York City. He gave a background on how the text Haiti campaign came about, talked about a “program in Mexico to restore anonymity to crime fighting using the tools of technology,” and had some back and forth on Google and China with some attendees. All very exciting stuff. The January 14 statement (posted online yesterday) was a prep for the Secretary’s big speech on Internet Freedom today.
Question: You said something about your team. How many people are working on the 21st Century Statecraft in the State Department?
Senior Advisor Ross: I work in the Office of the Secretary. So I’d simply responds by saying that when the Secretary gets behind something the entire department gets behind something. So I’ll give the examples of Mexico and the Congo.
I have a team, but I don’t have a team in Mexico and in the Congo. We’re not this just anomalous little cell. We’re working with the embassy in Mexico City, with the Ambassador, with the Regional Bureau, and so too in the Congo, for example, we’re working with the Ambassador, with the Embassy staff.
The commitment from the Secretary to bring 21st Century Statecraft to the department is to institutionalize it. It’s not to say oh, here are ten really smart young people, let’s empower them. While that might work over the short term, it’s not going to be institutionalized. So what we are doing is not saying all right, here’s an innovation team. What we’re saying is here is an innovation based department. I’d love for it to be the case that all 30-some-thousand employees of the State Department could say they’re working on 21st Century Statecraft.
Question: If you look back on the Iran, the so-called Twitter revolution there. It’s been criticized for having done as much harm as good that America is trying to impact by helping citizens there. What are your conclusions with respect to that?
Senior Advisor Ross: I think that I will point you to Hillary Clinton’s speech next Thursday. I do believe that access to the tools of the 21st Century is a net good, and again, to quote the President, the more freely information flows the stronger the society and the way in which information flows in the 21st Century is increasingly over our global communications networks and our digital networks. I’ll leave it at that.
I'm sure you can connect with Alec Ross through the GAL. I'd be happy, of course, to forward specific information to him if it works better for you. Did I say his office is within the Secretary’s office? Follow him on Twitter here. Secretary Clinton’s speech will be livestreamed on www.state.gov at 9:30am ET.