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Twiplomacy: Between Openness and Isolation

The 25 most connected world leaders on "Twitter"

The 25 most connected world leaders on "Twitter". Picture – from Twiplomacy.com

One can find here Pope Benedict XVI or dictator Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez. Twitter is breaking the stereotypes of traditional  communication and diplomacy, providing an opportunity to directly access to information and interaction. We can call it openness on the part of the global community that has an internet access, is curious and educated.

While the other part of it is still in the information vacuum.

In this information age, when one part of society is rapidly moving forward and the other remains behind, the problem of digital divide becomes more evident than ever.

Access to the internet: current situation

According to The Global Information Technology Report 2012: Living in a Hyperconnected World, information and communications technology (ICT) readiness in sub-Saharan Africa is still low. Most countries show significant lags in connectivity due to insufficient development of ICT infrastructure, which remains too costly, and display poor skill levels that do not allow for an efficient use of the available technology. Even in countries where ICT infrastructure has been improved, ICT-driven impacts on competitiveness and well-being trail behind, resulting in a new digital divide.

The leverage of ICT is still an important challenge for the so-called BRIC countries (Brazil, Russia, India and China). “An insufficient skills base and institutional weaknesses, especially in the business environment, present a number of shortcomings that stifle entrepreneurship and innovation,” was a comment made at the World Economic Forum.

The best examples how leveraging information and communication can boost countries’ competitiveness are Sweden and Singapore, which take first and second places in the rankings respectively. Strong positions are also taken by Switzerland, the Netherlands, the United States, Canada and the United Kingdom.

World leaders on Twitter

The year 2012 has seen a marked increase in the use of social media ­by heads of states and governments, ministers, and diplomats. The entire governments of Chile and Mexico, and their ministers, are on Twitter, probably one of the easiest social-media tools to use in government communication, highlights a study by the Canadian International Council.

Twiplomacy. Picture: Twiplomacy.com.

Twiplomacy” seems to be a new word these days. No less than 47 FMs are said to have twitter accounts now,” tweeted Carl Bildt, the Swedish Minister of Foreign Affairs.

According to the “Twiplomacy” study , the governments of almost two-thirds of the 193 UN member countries have presence on Twitter. A quarter of world leaders and governments follow President Barack Obama and the White House, but @BarackObama and the @WhiteHouse have established mutual  relations on Twitter with only three other world leaders: Norway’s Jens Stoltenberg, UK’s Prime Minister David Cameron and Russia’s Dmitry Medvedev.

Africa is home to some of the most conversational leaders on Twitter. The tweets of Ugandan Prime Minister @AmamaMbabazi, Rwanda’s @PaulKagame and Tanzania’s Jakaya Kikwete @JMKikwete are almost exclusively @replies to their followers.

Do they tweet themselves?

According to the “Twiplomacy” study,  45 per cent of the 264 accounts analysed are personal accounts of heads of states and government, but just 30 world leaders do the tweeting themselves and very few on a regular basis.

Twiplomacy conference at the Italian Embassy in Washington DC on October 22, 2012. Panelists: Ambassador Claudio Bisogniero, Washington Post columnist David Ignatius, UN Communications Director Deborah Seward, HuffPostLive Ahmed Shihab-Eldin, State Department's Alec Ross. Photo by Italian Embassy via Flickr under a Creative Commons licence.

In Europe, 75 per cent of government leaders are on Twitter, but only 10 leaders tweet personally, including the entertaining Toomas Ilves (@IlvesToomas), President of Estonia. Twitter is particularly popular among governments of small states such as Andorra, Liechtenstein, Luxembourg, Monaco, and the Vatican.

Lebanese Prime Minister Najib Mikati (@Najib_Mikati) holds occasional Twitter chats with his followers, while Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak (@NajibRazak) invited his 500, 000th follower for breakfast. The Croatian government organises regular tweet-ups for 50 lucky followers in its government offices, according to the Canadian International Council Studies.

How it’s changing the relationships?

Uganda's representation on Twitter. Image: twiplomacy.com.

As Barack Obama jokingly said during a press conference with the then Russian President Dmitry Medvedev, thanks to Twitter “We may be able to throw away those red phones that have been sitting around for so long.”

Twitter, as others social networks, made the flow of information faster and more directly, strengthened social society, by giving them a platform to express their ideas and to create networks. It became an arena of political and academic disputes, and in many ways that created a space for openness. The present-day challenge is to reduce the digital divide and make sure that the difference of access to information do not create exclusion.


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About The Author(s)



Dalia Plikune

Dalia Plikune

Journalist

Freelance journalist based in Paris (France). Dalia Plikune has over 5 years experience in journalism and master degree in International communication. Before moving back to France she worked in the Lithuanian news agency ELTA.

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