IGF 2022 Day 1 Town Hall #67 Growing a New Cadre of Tech Diplomats

The following are the outputs of the captioning taken during an IGF intervention. Although it is largely accurate, in some cases it may be incomplete or inaccurate due to inaudible passages or transcription errors. It is posted as an aid, but should not be treated as an authoritative record.



>> Good afternoon, and welcome to the end of another long day, but hopefully we're going to make this a really great conversation to be really interactive.  We're going to have more of trying to think together rather than people just speaking at you.  We're here to talk about growing a new cadre of tech diplomats.  I'm the cyber policy need at active director at the Tony Blair Institute for Global Change.  We work in nearly 30 countries globally, working to support leaders with practical policies, solutions, and to some of the world's biggest challenges including things related to the internet.

We are also co‑hosting this panel with CEPS that was established in 1983 as a leading thank tank for debate on EU affairs, based in Brussels.  And we have Rosanna Fanni here to speak on IR as part of this panel.

So today we're really trying to bring together some thinking about last year we launched a leaders guide for tech on foreign policy and really springboarding off a report we wrote about the open internet being on the brink and really showing this clear need for countries to be able to have a picture of the whole ecosystem of global challenges to be able to solve them.

As said this morning, the internet we see before us is not actually ‑‑ it's quite the (Audio breaking up) so many moving parts that within foreign policy it's been very challenging for countries to find the right way to be able to subtract holistically across those moving parts.

And what we see is increased need that tech is affecting everything from security and defense to humanitarian delivery, but that it's not necessarily being unified from foreign policy capacities.

So we called for this need for countries to embed tech into their foreign policy for greater anticipatory awareness, for coordinated policy revisions and clear strategic vision.  This report reviewing the situation on tech delivery in particular.

Looking at less than half the countries in Africa really bring up digital issues on to the UN agenda.  So they're increasingly becoming torn between EU, US, China, of where to sit on the proposals on the governance of the internet.  So what we wanted to do with this session was bring together some thinking on where ‑‑ what is the impact of having a tech diplomat for different countries and come together and think about what would be the better practice or ideas or lessons to overcome the obstacles so that we can build a new cadre of tech diplomats to have their voice on the stage.

To do this we brought together Professor André Xuereb who is Malta's first tech diplomat, ambassadors for digital affairs formally appointed in 2020.  We also have Sinit Zeru who has work streams both here in Ethiopia and has been engaged in working against sub‑Saharan Africa since 2007.  We were supposed to be joined by Andrea Renda to give us the Latin American viewpoint.  But we have Daouda Lo in Senegal with a background in tech development and working with government industries in Senegal across thinking about this issue about where tech should sit with foreign policy.

We have everyone here in the room.  Is anyone here a tech diplomat as well?  Excellent.  Anyone part of a tech diplomatic policy?  Anyone engaged with tech diplomats?  We will get your viewpoints as well.

Without further ado, I will turn over to André.  André, are you there?  If you have a minute before we go to you, André, to just go to Slido.com and answer the very first question that she has there.  You can put your questions you have on Slido

    That's an interesting question.  We were just debating that at lunch in fact, we'll come back to that.  Okay.  Without further ado, I would like to turn over to André.  André, really what I want to ask you ‑‑ we're so sorry you're not here in the room with us ‑‑ from your experience of being a small country, what has having representation as a digital Ambassador really brought to shaping your foreign policy, shaping your interactions on the global stage, and what difference has it made?  Thank you.

>> ANDRÉ XUEREB:  Sure.  Thank you.  I'm sorry for not being able to be present.  Lots of commitments, family and everything else, made it impossible for me to be there.  Thank you, everyone, for the invite from the Tony Blair Institute and Melanie setting all of this up.

I'm happy to see such a large crowd.  I'm following your proceedings live.  For the one person who raised her hand the one diplomat in the room, let's hope that IGF will be more in the room to raise their hand to answer that question.

Melanie, it's a very important question and very proud to have this opportunity to be to be a tech diplomat.  I am a growing class of tech diplomats.  Let' talk about the question you raised about small states and broaden that a bit.

One of the key points I often make about us small states is agility.  So being small can be a hindrance, but on the other hand, being small allows you to change direction rather rapidly.  That makes us, in general, a natural places to think about new regulations, new governance structures, and incorporation of new technologies into our country before larger states.  In some sense this gives us experience on how these technologies, how these ideas work before others, which allows us to take leadership positions.  Of course, we need no validate those positions, but we're naturally placed in many places to take those leadership roles.

It's not just small states, of course.  One of the preliminary questions we had, there was this issue of Global North versus Global South which is a big part of the tech discussion.  What accounts for small states also counts for the Global South in this sense, that is to say we're seen as lagging education in terms of taking up new technologies and so on.  Rather than seeing it as a problem or a detriment.  If you think about peer-to-peer mobile banking, Africa is the pioneer there.  Again, there's a lot we can learn from Africa in this particular space, which allow us to think about how regulate and govern this aspect of technology.

More broadly, this is what I'm trying to say, small states like Global South and other places have a particularly interesting, particularly good role to play if we take the initiative to try to set leadership in certain fora.  We also need to put our foot forward and try and take, try to assert leadership in the right fora.  We need to be on the right table in these discussions.  There is precedent for this.  There is a government precedence that I can think about off the top of my head.  One is the recent international discussions that talk about the climate catastrophe which was sparked in part by small island states saying this represents an existential threat to us.  We need to do something about this.

Closer to home, a few decades ago Malta spear headed the law of the seas.  There is presence of the small states globally taking leadership roles.  And in technology, in the world of technology this could be another front for us to do this.  Of course, we need be able to participate in the conversation and assert leadership.

>> People have questions for you and we'll come back to you.  I would like to give the floor over to Sinit.  You couldn't have been working since 2007.  That would make you a small child.  With all your experience, what do you think is missing with Africa's engagement in tech diplomacy and how do you feel that we can close that gap?  And what would it take to build a cadre of tech diplomats?

>> SINIT ZERU:  Can everybody hear me?  Fantastic.  I would invite everybody to take a step back first and kind of invite us to consider two lenses to think about where Africa sits in this kind of big global tech diplomatic world that is emerging.

The first lens is an interesting one, is a Neo Cold War playing out on the continent.  On one side, I'll preface this using country names as a shorthand and respect all people are not homogenous.  You have the China, Russia positioning and their allies versus the US, EU and their respective allies.  I think one of the interesting things about the Neo Cold War playing out is it brings tech policy only at periods of crisis.

I think the lessons we should be taking away from those crisis, let's not wait for the crisis.  We have to take a proactive approach.  I invite all governments to do that but particularly the African governments.

The also rise of the multinational cooperation and the power of the nation state and other multilateral governments.  We see Alibaba, Google, Oracle, the list goes on kind of at odds with governments at various kind of issues, whether that's around tax revenue, whether it's around employment rights, whether that's around thinking about, again, kind of periods of elections and social media content.  You see this tension playing out in that lens.

So both lenses tempt you to see Africa as passive or victimized.  I would challenge that narrative.  What I'll do is I'll just go through a flavor of kind of the top spaces where tech diplomacy mid play out thinking about these lenses.  The first one is cybersecurity.  We have the AU convention on cybersecurity and data privacy.  We made a first step.  The signup to it and follow through is still very limited.

Thinking about our kind of next dimension around e‑commerce and trade.  We have the African continental free trade agreement.  We hear talk about Africa being the single digital market.  It's very interesting that the Central Africa Republic has accepted cryptocurrency as legitimate currency.  We see Nigeria launching its central ‑‑ its own C about DIC, limited success.  These are big complex issues that I'm such touching upon.

One of the most important things around e‑commerce trade given the unemployment in Africa we know the gig economy is hugely important on the continent.  The gig economy is dominated again by major multinational corporations.  It raises issues around protecting employee rights, around taxation, around the role that education has got to play to prepare the African youth and frankly all Africans because we're all having to learn all the if I'm now.  So I think thinking about the legislation and thinking about planning is also really important getting that space of tech diplomacy.

Infrastructure, I think the infrastructure discussion connects connectivity 5 G, access to devices all these demand engagement whether they be corporations or governments.

The final one which is also very important is around social norms and governance.  We've had various pockets of debate.  They typically are isolated, whether they're around what are acceptable things to say on the internet?  What is the role of social media platforms on elections?  All of these things, again, demand a coherent and holistic view, not just at a national level but at a regional level.

Keeping all of those big flavor issues in mind, what I would say is at the Tony Blair Institute we always say all policy is tech policy.  If you're going to walk away with one thing from our talk, that's what I would invite you to walk away with.

I would say in Africa when it comes to tech diplomacy issues, it's very varied, there's a lot of stuff we're making proactive steps on.  I've mentioned a few of them.  I think another one worth mentioning is the Africa Declaration on internet rights.

There are things on paper, the translation on the ground is there's still a long journey to go.

One thing is tech policy requires Africa and all governments to be proactive.  We need to see tech on par with energy, military capacity, food security, when it comes to thinking about the role of technology and tech diplomats in we have to think of upskilling at an individual level & but in terms of leveraging in important forums like the African Union, including regional bodies like egad.  I think the third thing is we have to be a lot more united on these fronts.  We don't have to agree on everything.  We've got to identify where we've got partners and where we're going to have to fight a battle.

I think being open and clear about that allows you to have a foreign policy strategy that will be much more effective and will help you identify the assets that you can leverage.

And then the final thing is, I think speaking also to the point that my predecessor made, being nascent works to this continent's advantage.  It's not being big or small but it's also about being early stage.  I think Africa is in a really good position if it's able to, to get ahead of the curve.  Then learn lessons from kind of previous global battles, whether that's around commodities or security.  We don't need to repeat knows mistakes.  I'll stop there.  Thanks, Melanie.

>> MELANIE GARSON:  I'm sure that's triggered a bunch of questions.  We've seen some coming through on Slido.  You can still feed into the Slido poll.  If you go into it, it should be where ‑‑ (frozen) Senegal, and again, we're sorry you can't be with us today.  But are you there?  Can you hear us?

>> DAOUDA LO:  Yes, I lost you for a bit.  But I'm hearing you very well.

>> MELANIE GARSON:  Excellent.  Thank you, Daouda.  What I would like to do is get some of your thoughts on the challenges from Senegal both where you're engaging with tech diplomacy and what is needed to help you build sort of a better tech diplomacy capacity within Senegal.

>> DAOUDA LO:  Thank you.  I would love to be with you here today.  The first thing for Senegal, the chance we have is that we have a president who is an engineer.  That's the first thing.  And the second is, he's the first tech diplomat without having the official title.  By that I mean, tech is very high on the agenda for Senegal, he is trying on any international gathering to push for the digital agenda in Senegal.  I think that's the first role he's playing in that field.

So Senegal is a bit of a particular country, which is that we are a democratic and at the same time surrounded with countries that are a bit unstable.  So we are moving on field alone, and at the same time, because we're part of the REC, the Regional Economic Community, we are moving on one hand as a sovereign country.  At the same time we're trying to, you know, on the eco side trying to push for internet policy.

Just one example, we have been member of the GPAI, which is the Global Partnership on Artificial Intelligence, since two days ago.  This is one thing that Tony Blair Institute has was leading since last year.  And now Senegal has joined other member of OECD as member of the Global Partnership on Artificial Intelligence GPAI, which is a big achievement for this country.  Because it's like‑minded countries.  We were able to push that to put that one over the line.

The second thing maybe that I want to discuss is around is data governance and how a country like Senegal is trying to push for tech diplomacy because it's a stable country, we have some infrastructure like data centers we're trying to build.  We are pushing.  It's not a tech diplomat travelling to surrounding countries trying to convince them to host their data within us, but it's just at the Ministry of the digital agency who travel to Gambia, to our neighbors or Guinea and try to sell these ideas of digital of data embassy where we say, listen, it's the same region.  You better host your data within Senegal infrastructure rather than going to the US or Europe to host them.  That's one thing that we are seeing playing in the fields.

The other maybe ‑‑ the last subject that I want to touch is around how we can piggyback ‑‑ but how we can as a small country try to frame and put in conversation between Senegal and big tech.  And we're seeing that in a very vivid and concrete example of how we are convincing a partner like Oracle to come to Senegal and set up a Cloud.  This is something the Tony Blair Institute is trying to push where we say to a big tech like Oracle, this is important for many countries who want their data to be within boundaries.  So the residency of data, how could you help us do it?  You're making a case, we're an example country.  So if it works for us, it could work for 54 countries in Africa.

So I'm just going to just stop there, but it's kind of legacy ‑‑ sorry, regulations around data, but it's also some concrete implementation of how Senegal can at least try to converse and talk with big tech and have some kind of output out of it.

>> MELANIE GARSON:  Thank you so much, Daouda.  Before we turn it over our speakers, André and Daouda, at any point, alert Rosanna and we'll turn the floor back over to you.  And you can Sinit, you can nudge me.  We have a bunch of questions coming in thick and fast.

So I'm just going ‑‑ I'm going to jump off the first one because it's an interesting one.  We didn't define what we meant by tech diplomacy.  And someone said, what do we mean by tech diplomacy.  I'm happy to give how we perceive our definition in the paper and more than open if anyone wants to add or change or respond to that.  I think there's a distinction between e‑diplomacy and tech diplomacy with e‑diplomacy the extent to which you use media or tech as part of your messaging.  And tech diplomacy similarly in the same we think of climate diplomacy or any other sort of diplomacy in the sense that it's partly how you're engaging with the whole range of actors across any given issue, in this case tech, to be able to shape or form the conversation, advance your interests, and see the change or be part of the change that you want to see, both locally, nationally, regionally, and globally.  So that would be whether that is ‑‑ I think Daouda raised an important point that in today's day and age, both engaging with other states and with the international forum, being able to have your voice heard alongside and collaborating for that as well as with tech companies that are increasingly taking on roles as geopolitical actors, whether that's in stabilizing the internet or in their formulation of tech and how we're using it.

So that would be where I would put the definition at.  But I'm happy for anyone else, André or anyone in the room that would like to add to that definition?

>> PARTICIPANT:  Thank you very much.  Normally we would offer to add to the definition but maybe a framework for it.  Not too long ago, about two weeks ago there was a conference in Malta called digital diplomacy and governance, I had the pleasure to participate in that.  To some extent we identified three elements or components of digital diplomacy.  The first is the impact of information technology on the geopolitical environment or basically on the environment in which diplomacy acts.

And then ‑‑ so that would be the environment.  Then issues, as you said there, are tech issues ICT related issues that the modern diplomat has to fail.  And ICT tools that would reach out to a bigger audience and constituency.  And probably that framework of those three points can help us to see either the definitions of each or the overlap between them, digital diplomacy and e‑diplomacy and tech diplomacy alike.

Many of these issues were tackled quite a few years ago, 2003, 2005, the fusion between the tech community and modern or as new as it could look like and the diplomacy could look like, the two communities met.  I was happy enough to be one of those members participating in the two phases of the summit.  I think it's useful to have that look into histories to see how to build into the future.  Thank you.

>> MELANIE GARSON:  Thank you so much.  May I get your name?

>> PARTICIPANT:  My name is Ambad at the commission.

>> MELANIE GARSON:  Thank you for sharing that with us.  I think André, you wanted to add into that.  André?

>> ANDRÉ XUEREB:  I didn't recognize my previous speaker.  We probably met in Malta a couple weeks ago.  Hi.  There's a few different ways in which one could spin this idea of what really is tech diplomacy.  One is, as has been said right now, tech as a topic, tech as a tool, and tech as an environment to do diplomacy.  My preferred way because I come from science as my background.  My preferred way is to piggyback on the definition of science diplomacy given a few years ago by the royal society AAAS.  I'll change a few words.  There's tech for diplomacy which you called e‑diplomacy which is using technology as a toll to help us engage diplomatically.  This is particularly important for small countries and regions who don't have a large diplomatic footprint in general.  As a small country we don't have the resources to engage in the same way as for example the US has.

Using digital tools in just the right way, we can grow our diplomatic footprint.  We call that e‑diplomacy.  There's diplomacy for tech.  Which is using multi‑ ‑‑ some through diplomacy encouraging the growth in technology, encouraging the development of technology.  Here I want to echo some of the concerns raid by both Sinit and Daouda and that's the interesting place we find ourselves in the moment in the global world where there are the large multinational corporations that really ‑‑ here I'm going to put on my small country hat ‑‑ they have much more power in every sense of the word than small countries.  That makes it very difficult for us as small countries to interact with them.  There's the aspect of encouraging them to invest in us which is one way.  But when it comes to discussing issues we face or trying to talk about governance, the structures are not obvious.  How do we go about going to these multinational corporations sitting around a table with them and discussing ways forward when it comes to governance.  There are some issues there, which go a bit beyond the traditional diplomatic framework.

There is tech in diplomacy.  There's using technology to inform diplomatic relations to somehow make relations smoother.  I would bring in Cicero software, that sort of idea to use tech to somehow enhance how States interact diplomatically with one another.  That's a slightly different way to define tech diplomacy using these three different lenses.

>> MELANIE GARSON:  Thank you so much.  That's definitely added.  I hope that answered the question of the person that asked it.  Sinit, did you want to add into that?

It's all great.  I think, again, turning back to some of the questions ‑‑ if there are any questions in the room, other than the ones in Slido, please raise your hand as you will.  Or if you put them in Slido, then so be it.

We've had a question also here from Paul who said, to what extent should tech diplomacy come from the foreign ministry or should it come through other bodies?  I think this is something we were looking at in part of the advocacy in the paper we did, which it should be embedded in foreign policy.  I think Chris Blinken said it recently when the US only last year or this year put in tech into their foreign policy to say, it was already bringing in scientists and technologists to tell him what he needed to know.  And this needed to be embedded into the foreign policy.  As Sinit alluded to, the gaps ant ‑‑ there are so many missing gaps if it's left to either different ministries to each try and work out their bit of tech, that things are falling through the cracks.  From our perspective that's where we see actual the fragmentation of the internet potentially happening.  If your traditional diplomats don't realize the Department of Trade may be doing on various standards and how that can be impacting on to the wider internet ecosystem while something else within the whole tech ecosystem, that's when the system's beginning to break up.

I see Sinit wants to add something here.

>> SINIT ZERU:  I agree with you.  I think typically the big players tend to be the Ministry of foreign affairs and Ministry of defense for security issues and Ministry of finance and the head of state offices.  The Ministry of ICT I think probably in every country has experienced an interesting journey from being the back‑end IT guy and suddenly that's sort of thrust to the lime light because there's been a crisis or a critical issue.

So I think there's an interesting question about the role of the Ministry of ICT or innovation in tech specifically in the mix.  What tech diplomacy demands is a greater need for collaboration which governments internally are not always great at.  That challenge is compounded by the fact that the number of tech diplomacy issues are international in their nature.  Not only do you have to talk about the key people in your country but to key people in other countries.

Further, it all changes really fast.  Tech changes fast.  Things are moving at a much faster pace.  Again, I think governments typically are going to struggle or have struggled in the past with keeping up to speed with this stuff, particularly when it comes to translating an initial announcement to regulation and then rollout, et cetera, et cetera.  I think where that really matters is in issues that impact particularly vulnerable communities.

My thinking is, just from a moral perspective that also has to be in the mix we're not just challenging the big powers that be, but thinking about, well, there are lots of people who aren't going to be in the room to represent their interests, so embedded and main streamed across that, what does this mean for the poorest and the vulnerable and for communities that are disproportionately impact the.

Going back and resonating to the earlier point on the impact of climate change and how that has forced a coalition of small island bodies to get together.  I would hope to see something like that for tech policy.

>> MELANIE GARSON:  Thank you.

>> PARTICIPANT:  There's two parts one on a small count on the platform.  I'm inclined of the view if a country has a tech minister, that person should be a diplomat your ICT minister should work in conjunction with foreign ministry.  The second part of the question comes to what extent ‑‑ to what extent should the tech of diplomacy involve the nongovernment sector, involve ‑‑ to what extent if you consider the UK, a lot of its tech diplomacy are done like London tech advocate and it's outsourced.  Let me pick on the UK because that's ‑‑ particular government might have some difficulty in breaking certain barriers because of unpopular policies or a political party could be unpopular and their predecessors could be more popular.  The NGO sect has credibility, well managed diplomacy has the sense of separation of state and government.  But in the tech sector in a fast-moving new industry, that sort of institutional mechanism does not yet exist.  My fear is if country adopt the approach we're going to appoint five people as diplomats and give them diplomatic powers.  They don't necessarily have credibility and you need to build that in various shapes and forms and work in a slightly different way than you've traditionally done it.  That's sort of the double nudge, in government where should it be?  I strongly agree that it should work in conjunction but secondly, to what extent, with the culture and the way things are, is government a little more impotent than it would like to be?

>> MELANIE GARSON:  Thank you very much.  I believe André wants to come back into the conversation.  André?

>> ANDRÉ XUEREB:  Thank you.  Apologies.  I got disconnected.  Yes.  I did miss part of your question.  I do apologize because I got disconnected.  So I hope I'm not contradicting you or somehow answering a different question.  There's a very interesting point to be made here to the extent to which this kind of philosophy should be embedded within foreign policy and within the country’s foreign policy rather than, for example, the industry.

I'm kind of leaving NGOs and Civil Society aside, because for me, they're kind of part of the national government package in this context.  I'll explain myself in a second.

Perhaps, for me, the best way to answer this question is to look at a specific example and see how I feel tech diplomacy has allowed countries, in this case the EU actually, to negotiate with the tech giants a deal which is for the citizens.  Here I'm talking about GDPR which many, many companies hate.  But it's basically how the EU has helped its citizens be safeguarded.

And there's something which it's not optional too.  Every multinational digital tech company operates in the EU has to abide by the GDPR but it's only by having national and supernational entities like the EU discussing with their citizens and showing them how high the stakes are, how important this will safeguard you in data that would give the citizens the power to push back against tech giants.  We want our data to be safeguarded.  We want our data to be held safe.  We don't want our data to be sold to any third party that you would like to sell data to.

This has allowed, as I said, the block to improve its citizens' digital lives in a way that would not otherwise have happened, in my opinion.  If we left this discussion to the tech industry, obviously the tech industry would not have made such a big deal of it, because it is quite simply more expensive to deal with things this way.  And citizens would not have perhaps been as involved and the outcry may not have been as strong, and therefore, things may not have progressed in this positive way.

So I do see in this specific aspect of governance, at least, I do see a very vital role for governments and national governments and supernational governments to play when it comes to dealing with the tech giants.  Here it's diplomacy for governing for diplomacy in tech in my nomenclature.  I wanted to answer this part of the question.  I did get disconnect the so I may have missed the rest of your intervention.  So I'm sorry about that.

>> MELANIE GARSON:  It was absolutely perfect, André.  You helped bring a lot of clarity.

I want to come back to Daouda.  I'm going to put two questions together as we're running out of time a little bit.  But I'll go back to Daouda and possibly to Sinit on this.  We have one question about, do you worry about the fragmented status of digital policy in Africa as a risk for Africa to become a strong player in the global tech geopolitics?

By the same token, what do you see the top issues of current tech diplomatic efforts?  Is it data governance?  Is it AI?  Is it cyber?  We would love to have your thoughts on that, Daouda.

>> DAOUDA LO:  All good.  Can you hear me?  It's very interesting question, Melanie.  But I think ‑‑ so Senegal is now chairing the African Union.  And I know there's a lot going on the continental side of things.  So we're trying, I think, to be consolidate, not only the policies, the regulations, but, again, align on the kind of interests that we have on making sure that as Africans we are moving in the same ‑‑ we're having the same vision, and we're executing on this.

Again, the fact that there is different regime, let's call it that way, with some kind of countries leaning to ‑‑ Russia is playing a big role in Mali, for instance, while you have China and all.  I think, as Sinit talked about earlier, which is the fragmentation will come from superpower player having Africa as their playing field.

Last year when we are at the FTF and we talked about the new IP they're trying to push, so I think we are being more and more aware of what's being ‑‑ what is playing on the geopolitical side of things.  We understand it.  But for now, I think there is some kind of pragmatism for a country like Senegal where we say, okay, if we have ‑‑ who are building the physical infrastructure, no problem.  And then we try to access it and have other, you know, local tech or big tech coming in and putting their hardware or their software.  So we're trying to be pragmatic for now, because I think that this tech diplomacy for Senegal, for instance, is, again, around FDI, how we can solve our youth employment.  So that approach is very economical.  And being led by the President.  So that fragmentation, we have it in the back of your head.

But what we are focusing on is how we can view the tech diplomacy to push the economic agenda.  So that's where we are for now.

>> MELANIE GARSON:  Thank you so much.  Sinit?

>> SINIT ZERU:  Thanks, Melanie.  So I'll speak in terms of my view on what the three big issues, where tech diplomacy can play an important role out of a pan African level.  The first is digital ID.  The lack of ID is a fundamental barrier to so many people and also for kind of governments to manage and be in service of their populations.  So digital ID is one.  It has to be interoperable.  It has to operate internationally and it has to be respected not only on the continent but globally.

Secondly is peace and security.  I don't want that to boil down to cybersecurity and technical ‑‑ I think moving beyond the role of tech in war but the role tech can play in promoting piece, in promoting understanding, so that speaks to your earlier point around e‑diplomacy and understanding the importance of managing and protecting the narrative, particularly toxic narratives that feed war and conflict across the content.  Digital ID first and peace and security second.  The final one is leveraging the digital economy for what I would describe as productive and dignified employment.  Unemployment across the continent is a major problem.  And I think people lacking a sense of optimism about their future and their future role in terms of the direction of travel, and I don't think that's specific to Africa.  I think dare I say Brexit might be an example of certain communities feeling like they don't have a right.  They're not featured in what the future looks like.

So for me the three major areas where I see tech diplomacy being a powerful force is digital ID, peace and security, and dignified employment in the digital economy.  Thanks.

>> MELANIE GARSON:  Thank you so much.  We are nearly at time.  So the question actually on Slido with the most likes at the moment is the question of meta and Cicero to the extent that can a machine learning process do diplomacy better than us or to the extent that it can be used as a tool?  I have ‑‑ my personal thoughts about this, both as an academic that teaches international conflict and security and the international negotiation.  I absolutely use all sorts of tools on this.

But I'm going to throw it open to the room before I have my say.  Does anybody want to give their own opinion on meta and Cicero at the moment?  Bad idea?  Why?

>> PARTICIPANT:  (Off Microphone)

>> MELANIE GARSON:  It can be used as a tool for the nondiplomatic.  Anybody else have a thought?  Everyone's gun shy.

>> ANDRÉ XUEREB:  Real quick.  Can I ‑‑

>> MELANIE GARSON:  Of course.

>> ANDRÉ XUEREB:  I thought I interrupted someone.  I agree, I think, with the spirit that there is in the room at the moment as far as I could go there.  My personal opinion is things like this are always a tool which might have some applicability.  There is perhaps one direct thing which I can speak, one of the interesting ways of approaching any dispute is ‑‑ one of the cardinal rules is separate the people from the problem, separate the States from the problem and think about the objective issues at hand.

Perhaps there could be a space for electronic tools to help us do that.  Perhaps see certain things a bit more objectively, but then beyond that, I would be scared of giving them any leeway.

Having said that, this is a very interesting topic.  I know the Swiss Ministry of foreign affairs is commissioning a study on this point, which would be interesting if and when it's published.  Yes, I think I do agree with the spirit that perhaps there is a place for these things.  Not quite in high steaks diplomacy, though.

>> MELANIE GARSON:  In terms of my opinion on it, for what it's worth, I love gaming, I use all sorts of tools to help my teaching on negotiation.  I've spent time with students online using an Avatar, does it help overcome different barriers.  I would say like André, I think these can be useful tools.  I think they can be useful tools for stress testing ideas, but the basic art of diplomacy and relationship building and understanding really what people's interests are that aren't always expressed is not something that I think machine learning is quite been able to uncover yet.  People send me all the time different types of machine learning tools.  I had one presented to me, this one can solve the Ukraine crisis, look at it.

Then I look at the caveat, this is a tool.  In the hands of a skilled mediator.  Yes, most things in the hands of a skilled mediator can be helpful, which is why we need more skilled tech mediators, and more skilled tech diplomats.  And thinking about what we need to do to enable that as both organisations, as communities, as governments, as academics is where we can ‑‑ where countries can come to us or organisations like CEPS or myself or TBI where they can come to and say, what can we do to help build this?  There are programmes in the US that are upskilling foreign policy or the foreign ministry State Department.  I've been teaching diplomats what is a hypersonic missile?  What's the technology?  What's the conversation around it?  Sometimes just opening up this conversation and upskilling and giving the tools to be able to engage across the full range of the tech ecosystem.

I think that brings us to time.  Do any of our speakers have any parting comments?  Sinit?

>> SINIT ZERU:  Your question, I think it's a good one.  I think an interesting thought experiment would be particularly in diplomacy we know who you are, your accent, where you come from, projects a certain position.  I wonder if virtual spaces would be quite interesting spaces to enable greater inclusion, I guess, and greater neutrality.  I also think they allow a kind of a more egalitarian voice.  I'm keen on tech virtual spaces being used for inclusion in terms of people with disabilities and all of those things that make using judge people and judge their positions early on.

Like everyone else, I agree there's a tool.  I think at the end of the day where we are we still want to shake people's hands and look them in the eye, right?  I think that's probably still true.  That would be my parting comment.  Thank you.

>> MELANIE GARSON:  I'll add to that.  The interesting thing, I don't know if anyone has done work on the metaverse.  When I was working negotiation in metaverse was that point was really interesting in terms of how people choose to represent themselves in the metaverse.  If you go into the ones where you build an Avatar, which is interesting, people who had disabilities, for instance, still choose to represent themselves with those disabilities in the metaverse rather than ‑‑ people build themselves in wheelchairs rather than I can walk in the metaverse.  I think that's interesting.  Not that it negates.  I think it's an interesting postscript.  Tech still has a lot to offer as teaching tools maybe solution tools.  We hope that you find the conversation interesting.  I want to take a huge thanks to our speakers that joined us from afar, to André, to Daouda, and Andrea I hope who is listening to the recording.  I wish he were here.  I'm sure he would love to share.  To Sinit, to Rosanna, to Natalia that's been meeting all the questions and to all of you for staying at the end of a long day.  Thank you for making this a super interesting conversation.

>> ANDRÉ XUEREB:  Thank you so much.