Photograph: Swissnex in SF

Report Launch: Tech Diplomacy Practice in the San Francisco Bay Area

April 25, 2023.

In the last five years, Silicon Valley and the world have shifted from relentless optimism toward new technologies to concerns about the challenges they pose. As Martin Rauchbauer, Co-Founder of the Tech Diplomacy Network, put it, “Foreign policy has arrived at Silicon Valley.”

Last week, Swissnex in San Francisco, together with Diplo.US and the République et Canton de Genève, celebrated the release of the report “Tech diplomacy practice in the San Francisco Bay Area.” More than 100 diplomats, tech representatives, and academia joined the lively debate on the emerging field of techplomacy, exploring key questions tech diplomats and companies face:

  • There is yet to be an established definition of tech diplomacy. In practice, the term means and entails different things to different governments and companies. How do we define techplomacy and its scope of interactions?
  • There is a cultural gap between governments and tech companies that work at a much faster pace than the public sector. How can techplomacy become more inclusive and get tech companies involved?
  • Countries from the global south that can’t afford to have a representation in Silicon Valley are under-representated. How can these countries be included in the emerging techplomacy community?

Here’s what we can learn from the report and yesterday’s panel discussion.

  • Brazil’s tech diplomat to San Francisco, Eugenio V. Garcia, defines tech diplomacy as “the conduct and practice of international relations, dialogue, and negotiations on global digital policy and emerging technological issues among states, the private sector, civil society, and other groups” (see p. 7 of the report).
  • According to Anne Marie Engtoft Larsen, Tech Ambassador of Denmark, tech companies have done a great job in hiring people from the government sector who speak the diplomat’s language. The recent layoffs in Silicon Valley present an opportunity for governments to do the same and hire people who know about tech and decreasing the cultural gap explained above.
  • Jovan Kurbalija, Executive Director at DiploFoundation, highlighted that over the last five years, tech companies and governments built mutual trust, an important aspect of diplomacy. However, techplomacy doesn’t function like traditional diplomacy and thus presents new ways of collaboration with the private sector.
  • Tech giants like Salesforce are already part of the multilateral techplomacy approach. Eric Loeb, EVP for Government Affairs at Salesforce, emphasized that many tech firms recognize the need and take steps to effectively address issues such as privacy, security, and ethical concerns related to their technologies.

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Tech Diplomacy Practice in the San Francisco Bay Area

Read and download the report.