Alec Ross
Senior Advisor for Innovation
Washington, DC
January 20, 2010

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Reasons Behind Secretary Clinton’s Vision of 21st Century Statecraft
Since Hillary Clinton became Secretary of State, one of the things that she recognized was that the promise and the peril of the 21st century is no longer bound by natural border vast distances. And technology is at the core of that frictionless communication collaboration, the challenges and opportunities in today’s world. And so, one of the things that she recognized was that the traditional architecture of our statecraft, the way in which we organized ourselves to fight the Cold War, for example, no longer applied in the 21st century. And what she did is she brought in a team of innovators to help her steward her vision for 21st century statecraft, maximizing the potential of technology and service of our diplomatic goals, so that we could take advantage of these cutting-edge tools. Technology can contribute to both promise and peril, and she said let’s put these tools in service of good here at the State Department.

21st Century Statecraft Compared to Conventional Diplomacy
Government-to-government interactions will continue to be important, and frankly the most important way in which we engage with our interlocutors globally. However one of the things that we recognized since early in the Obama Administration is that leveraging our digital networks, we can now engage government-to-people, people-to-people, and people-to-government. Let me give a couple of examples, first of all with government-to-people communications. The best known example of this is President Obama’s Cairo speech, where he wasn’t giving a speech to a room full of university students in Egypt, he wasn’t just speaking to Egyptians, he wasn’t just speaking to people in the Middle East, he was speaking to Muslims wherever they were globally. He was able to do that because we’re no longer bound by the strictures of broadcast-era media. We were able to take his words and help make them virile because people can now get information on their cell phones, they can get information on blogs, they can get information on social media, and so that kind of government-to-people interaction has been incredibly powerful and compelling. We’ve done this since the first days of the Obama Administration, and Secretary Clinton is now utilizing it as she advances some of her goals related to things like the empowerment of women, helping to strengthen food security, and now as we try to get a message out globally, about internet freedom.

21st Century Statecraft’s Role in Today’s Information Age
You know historically, again going back to the broadcast-era, thinking about the Cold War for a moment. During the Cold War people communicated principally through radio, through newspapers, and through a small number of broadcast television networks. There was a very small number of sources of news and information that people would go to. Today, in the 21st century, there are literally millions of sources of information. People look at blogs; people have favorite websites; people get information from listserves, from smaller publications, as well now as from 200 TV channels. And so what it means is that we have to be more nimble but also reach people where they are because as audiences are now able to get information from new and diverse sources, they’re able to apply their specialized tastes and they just won’t tune in to things that don’t speak to them.

The Significance of the Misuse and Denial of Internet Technology
There’s nothing about technology in and of itself that is an implicit good. In the same manner in which steel can be used to build both hospitals and machetes, so too technology can be used by allies or enemies alike. And it’s being used in a very sophisticated way, for example by Hezbollah. Hezbollah uses technology to recruit youth in Internet cafes in Lebanon. There are so-called al-Qa’ida imams--al-Qa’ida Internet imams--who do a lot of their recruitment and do a lot of the radicalization, particularly the early radicalization of young people, using the Internet. And then there are a great many societies that just don’t believe in the value or virtue of an open Internet. Thirty-one percent of the people on planet Earth live in countries with a censored Internet, and that goes directly to the question of what kind of world we want to live in. Do we want to live in a world with one Internet, where we can all draw from a common knowledge commons, where we all have access to the same information and opportunities, or is the information and the knowledge that you’re able to attain based on what country you live in and based on what the censors in that country want?

Secretary Clinton’s Engagement of Technology To Aid Response to the Haiti Earthquake Tragedy
Although what happened in Haiti is obviously unspeakably horrible, but one of the many things that she’s done which has been effective is to draw on the knowledge that she’s built about how technology to solve problems and help us immediately respond to the crisis. Let me just tell a little story: the week prior to the earthquake in Haiti, the Secretary had dinner with 10 high-tech executives. One of those executives was young, a 30-something entrepreneur, who was a pioneer of using mobile phones to do charitable giving, for example. And in the hours following the earthquake, the Secretary directed us to get in touch with this entrepreneur--he happened to be asleep in Pakistan at the time--and we woke him up and literally within hours we set up a program where people can text the word Haiti to number 90999, and it’s raised $25 million. So this is a case where the Secretary’s engagement, the relationships that she built, for example, at this dinner in this case, she immediately applied within a week, saying "Hey, we have a problem. We need to be able to get financial resources, in this case, the Red Cross to respond to the tragedy. How can we go outside of the conventional responses? How can we leverage technology?" And in this case $25 million raised in $10 increments, means that we’ve got about two and a half million individuals personally taking action to help out in their own modest ways. Which, because it went viral on social media like Twitter, like Facebook, it then became something that has raised about 20% of the money that the Red Cross has raised so far.

Significance of Secretary Clinton’s Speech on Internet Freedom
This is an incredibly important speech. We learned a lot during 2009. We saw how technology can contribute to both the promise and the peril of the 21st century. On the positive side, we saw how we can get messages like that of the President’s Cairo speech out to people in new and different ways, people who otherwise would be isolated. We’ve learned how technology, particularly mobile platforms, can be used to educationally and economically empower people in developing countries. On the negative side, though, we saw many examples where governments would repress their citizens’ freedom of expression, freedom of assembly, and freedom of the press. You know, prominent examples of this are Iran, with the Government of Iran’s shut down of communications, shut down basically of the Internet, in the election aftermath. We saw this in China with the Uyghur uprising in west China where the Chinese would shut down social media, where they would close off networks. And there’re many more examples that aren’t necessarily as well-known, but what we’ve seen is that this whole issue of universal access to an open Internet has gone from being something that’s good to have to something that now is a must have. If somebody is really going to be able to engage in modern life, an open Internet is essentially an on-ramp to modernity. And it’s very important that all of the globe's citizens have access to one open Internet. And if that’s not the case, or if it is the case that countries are going to literally wall themselves off and censor their own little version of the Internet, then it’s going to lead to fragmentation, and it’s going to lead to significant foreign policy problems in the years ahead.