Institution: Hamad Almuftah, Prof. Vishanth Weerakkody, and Dr. Ramzi El-Haddadeh

Institution: Business school, Brunel University, United Kingdom

Course: Political Science



Abstract Digital diplomacy is the tool used for virtual representation. It entails the incorporation of information and communication technology for attaining foreign policy goals. Digital diplomacy can also be defined as as an electronic component of public diplomacy. Consequently, it is also recommended as e-Diplomacy. Researchers have conducted very few studies in this area thereby contributing to a significant research gap. The aim of this paper is to provide an analysis of the current e-diplomacy studies based on a systematic literature review methodology. The results have highlighted some key findings. One of the key findings in this regards is that, most of the studies were conducted in North America and Europe. The other key finding is that, most of them adopted qualitative methods to support the literature using empirical evidences. A profiling table has been constructed to shape a starting point and useful references to which researchers can refer. Exploring areas that might need further investigations and future studies has also been done.


TOC o “1-3” h z u HYPERLINK l “_Toc404787776″Abstract PAGEREF _Toc404787776 h 1





HYPERLINK l “_Toc404787781″FINDINGS10

HYPERLINK l “_Toc404787782″Categories of publication10

HYPERLINK l “_Toc404787783″Countries or regions where the studies were conducted11

HYPERLINK l “_Toc404787784″Methodology adopted13

HYPERLINK l “_Toc404787785″Profiling table: Key findings, short brief, limitation and recommendation15



HYPERLINK l “_Toc404787788″WORK CITED30


Digital diplomacy, also known as e-Diplomacy, has been understood as an internet application and new tools as well as resources of technology that are used to help secure diplomatic goals (Hanson, 2012). In the UK’s Foreign and Commonwealth Office (2012), digital diplomacy has been considered as an important tool in the management of foreign policy issues via the internet. This definition is however limited as it does not cover internal electronic collaboration processes, mobile phone, or related technologies. The US State Department (2013) apply the term 21st Century Statecraft to encompass the elements and applications of digital diplomacy.

A review of relevant literature depicted that there is lack of adequate studies that have examined E-diplomacy and digital diplomacy. Batora (2008) affirms that all the diplomatist literature focuses on various aspects of diplomacy, negotiation process, diplomatic function, culture, habits, and history. Very few papers and studies on the issue have been found. The aim of this paper is to provide a comprehensive summary of the current literature relevant to e-diplomacy. This is done by applying the systematic literature review technique. In this regard, all the existing studies are reviewed and they classified basing on relevancy to the research area, methodology adopted and country where the study is conducted. A profiling table is created. It consists of the reference, the methodology adopted, relevancy to the research topic, key finding, and brief description, country where the study was adopted, a note of how might a researcher in the field of E-diplomacy benefit from the study, and finally the limitation and the recommendation for future study. The objective of the profiling table is to help researcher in the field of e-diplomacy find a starting point and useful references they can refer to as well as exploring areas that might need further investigations and future studies.

The first section of the paper is a literature review of digital diplomacy. Topics such as the importance of ICT in diplomacy, tools of e-diplomacy, areas of uses within the foreign ministry and international relation, the effects of ICT on diplomacy and many other are discussed in details. Next, the methodology adopted is outlined. After that, the findings section that consists of four sub sections as mentioned above is presented. Finally, the results are analysed and discussed in the conclusion section supported by the recommendations for future studies.


The 21st century saw a significant growth in information communication technology and its applications. The world has advanced to a significant extent in ICT and even more advancements are expected in the years to come (Hilbert and Lopez, 2011). The developments of the past 5 years were very significant, especially with the major advancements in ICT, which have been seen in recent years. Technological changes have affected all the aspects of life, from the smallest family unit to the society, also reaching the international setting. Foreign affairs and diplomacy have not always been ready to support novelty in the foundations of communication and spread of the data because of the sensitive nature of communications. For example, the telegrams were viewed as the end of diplomacy in the 1840s (Abeyagoonasekera and Ranasinghe, 2012). This was, however, not the case. Even at their slowest pace, the diplomatic corps has used new tools and have gone through changes in the environmental affected by technological developments. IT influences two key factors, which are important in diplomacy, mostly on space and time. Communication tools and settings have established the way towards the efficient use of time and space in foreign affairs. The 2011 assassination of Osama bin Laden was relayed in different parts of the world almost as soon as it happened, while the spread of the news on the independence of the U.S. took a long time to reach Great Britain (Abeyagoonasekera and Ranasinghe, 2012). The power of IT is to reduce spatial and time gaps. Technology can be considered a double-edged sword and people have gone through its highs and lows via related experiences and trials. With the increasing involvement ICT into diplomatic affairs, political scientists refer this transformation as “the shift in the paradigm.” It offers a much more targeted way of delivering information, and empowers the government in establishing new connections across the globe. Moreover, e-diplomacy has changed the role of diplomats; they are no more bound to carry all the official documents, as these files are always present at the distance of their fingertips.

The concept of digital diplomacy is explained by some people in terms of Actor-Network Theory or ANT (Nweke). This theory represents the relationship between “actor” and “actant,” actors are all non-human elements i.e. computers, texts, hybrids etc. Meanwhile the human element is referred to as actant. Putting ANT into the context of e-diplomacy, diplomats become actants, while social media and machines maintain their position as actors. The Actor Network Theory provides the ingredients that are required to conceptualize and reconstruct the social space (Nweke). (More about the theory is provided in another section) “Foreign ministries will have little option but to take advantages of IT if they are to remain competitive with other parts of government, their analogues in other countries, and in some respects, the media “(Eldon, 1994)

The information and communication technology (ICT) has undergone several transformations before evolving into ICT of which we are aware. There are plenty of tools and applications offered by Information and communication technology to carry out virtual diplomacy. The most extensive tool that is used for e-diplomacy is the World Wide Web, which is a network that connects information or the source with the receptor. This allows simultaneous retrieval of information by different computers. The content on a website can be secured through providing limited access or it could have an open access. Websites allow storage and the access of information to people all around the globe. Information can also be preserved in the form of web database. Governments for storing important documents related to public policy, which are retrieved by common individuals, can use this tool. This may include personal information of individuals or a biometric database that is only accessible by an individual. It may also provide answers to some of the frequently asked questions, along with other important implications of official protocol (Permyakova, RIAC).

The social media is regarded as the key driver in the development of digital diplomacy. Ambassadors and other foreign office officials use this medium to communicate with the citizens all around the globe. Moreover, they assist citizens. Some of the most commonly used platforms of the social media are Facebook, Twitter, Linked-in, Integra, and YouTube. The invention of Web 2.0 technology was the main force behind the development of all these platforms. Today there are more than eighty ministries of foreign affairs all over the globe that run official pages and accounts on Facebook, Twitter and YouTube. One of the key elements in promotion of digital diplomacy via social media is that people can directly interact with government officials; they can present their own opinion, or ask them about government’s agenda (Permyakova, RIAC).

Provision of online services is another tool that is regularly used by embassies. Visa information and other associated documents can be delivered online by the citizens from any part of the world. Moreover, embassies use internet as a tool for cultural exchange, it offers various readings, documents, videos and other sources for promoting cultural exchange (Permyakova, RIAC).

ICT is also used by for intergovernmental exchange of documents; from one headquarter to the other. For instance, the identification of illegal migrants can be made by sharing information of individuals who have expired visa or who have entered the borders without permission. By sharing such information via internet with head offices, embassies can improve their efficiency by several folds. Online conference calls and webinars are widely used by diplomats all around the world in order to address their targeted audience. Moreover, they are used by diplomats as a mode of sharing their views with masses in general, and to calm them down in the state of emergency, where visuals become more important than words (Permyakova, RIAC).


Methodology is often defined as a systematic and logical analysis of relevant and appropriate research methods being applied to wide arrays of research studies and fields. Methodology encompasses concepts like research paradigm, hypotheses, theoretical models, empirical analysis, qualitative design, and quantitative analysis (Bernard, 12-14). Furthermore, a methodology is not intended to offer solutions, but the theoretical underpinning for understanding which research methods can be used and applied to garner relevant results and outcomes. A number of researchers further believed that a methodology is a general research strategy outlining the way in which a research can be initiated and completed while highlighting relevant solutions and results based on the reasons and logic (Babbie, 10).

A systematic literature review is used as the methodology of this study. It aims at providing a comprehensive summary of current literature that is relevant to research topic, e-diplomacy, or digital diplomacy in this case. In general, the first phase of a systematic review is searching for the literature for relevant papers in which all the database used such as web of science, Scopus or Google scholar are listed as well as any hand searched individual papers, article websites books ….and so on . Next, the titles, the abstracts, and sometime the body of the identified sources are checked against pre-determined criteria for eligibility and relevancy (Systematic review). The methodology adopted in this paper is illustrated in the diagram below:

Fig.1, Research Methodology

Taking into account the data of Fig. 1, the research methodology, which is based on a systematic literature review, can be explained as follows:

Phase 1 (Initial search): over 3000 results were found by using two key words that are “e-diplomacy” and “digital diplomacy.” The results are a combination of books, journal articles, theses, online resources, and e-books. The Initial search was performed through Amazon.com, Google scholar, Scopus database, and web of science.

Phase 2 (Using specific key words): Most of the results found from phase 1 were irrelevant at all. Fortunately, the search engines of the databases mentioned above have advanced search options such as specifying the exact key words and combining them. The combinations of the keywords used are “diplomacy AND ICT,” “diplomacy AND digital diplomacy AND technology diplomacy AND social media”, “diplomacy AND virtual”, ‘consular services AND ICT”, “e-diplomacy, bilateral relation and ICT, and foreign ministry AND ICT”. 495 results were found.

Phase 3 (Looking at the titles): The 495 results were reduced to 118 by looking at the titles of the documents. Only relevant titles were considered.

Phase 4 (Sorting and removing redundancies): As four different search engines and databases were used, sorting of the references was required to eliminate redundant studies. A program known as REFWORKS and Microsoft Excel were used. REFWORKS is a software package for managing references, which is web-based. The results from this phase amounted to 71.

Phase 5 (Reading the abstracts): Sometimes the titles of the documents can be misleading, therefore, the abstracts and /or the summaries of each document and studies were read. Only 32 were found to be relevant enough.

Phase 6 (Skimming the body): The bodies of the 32 studies were skimmed and only 25 of them were found to be very relevant to the research topic.

Phase 7 (Profiling table): Finally, a profiling table was created for the 25 sources. It consisted of the full reference, the methodology adopted, relevancy to the research topic, key finding, and brief description. It also contained the country where the study was adopted, a note of how might a researcher in the field of E-diplomacy benefit from the study, and finally the limitation and the recommendation for future study. A short version of the profiling table is shown in the Finding section of this paper.


As mentioned in the previous section, only 25 studies were found to be useful and relevant to the topic of e-diplomacy. These studies are classified into groups of relevancy, countries where the study was conducted and methodology adopted. More details are illustrated in table 1, table 2, and table 3 in the following three subsections.

Categories of publication

Fig. 2 and Table 1 shows that out of 25 resources there are 12 studies focused on E-diplomacy that includes effects of ICT, benefits, risks, theories, major areas of diplomacy that ICT has contributed too, common areas where digital diplomacy is particularly effective as a foreign ministry resources, tools of e-diplomacy and many others. Moreover, 9 publications have more focus on social media as a tool of public diplomacy. The last four studies did not have direct focus on e-diplomacy, however, it outlined some aspect of it such as smart power, soft power, how IT development puts diplomats under constant pressure (Petrosyan, 2001) and assessing some e-diplomacy cases (Khatib, 2012). More about the contents of each publication is presented in the profiling table, table 4.

Fig. 2, number of Categories of publication

Category # References

Direct Focus on E-diplomacy 12 Grech, 2006 – Radunovie, 2010- Permyakova 2014- Batora, 2008- Hanson 2012 – Vanc, 2012- Nweke, 2012- Copeland, 2009 – Shultz- Fong, 2010 – Abbasov, 2007 – Digital strategy, 2012

More focus on social media and public diplomacy 9 Huxley, 2014- Aldiplomacy, 2013- Mediabadger, 2014 – Hall, 2012 – Hayden, 2012- – Grincheva – Cull, 2013 – Wichowski 2013 – Zhong, 2013

No Direct Focus 4 Petrosyan, 2001- Hallams, 2010 – Chen, 2012 – Khatib, 2012

Table 1, categories of publication

Countries or regions where the studies were conducted

It can be noticed from Fig. 3 and table 2 that nine studies were conducted in Europe, eight in North America, three in the Far East, only one in India, Qatar (Middle East), and Caucasian region.

Fig. 3, number of studies per region

Country or Region where the study was conducted # Continent References

Malta 2 Europe Grech, 2006 – Radunovie, 2010

UK 2 Europe Digital strategy, 2012, Grincheva

Russia 1 Europe Permyakova 2014

Slovak 1 Europe Batora, 2008

Norway 1 Europe Batora, 2008

Finland 1 Europe Huxley, 2014

Australia 1 Australia Hanson 2012 – Abbasov, 2007

Canada 2 North America Batora, 2008 – Copeland, 2009

USA 6 North America Vanc, 2012 – Abbasov, 2007 – Hayden, 2012- Cull, 2013 – Chen, 2012- Khatib, 2012

Nigeria 1 Africa Nweke, 2012

Caucasian 1 Caucasian Petrosyan, 2001

Singapore 1 Asia (far east) Fong, 2010

Qatar 1 Asia (middle east) Aldiplomacy, 2013

India 1 Asia Hall, 2012

China 2 Asia (far east) Chen, 2012 – Zhong, 2013

General 3 Shultz- Mediabadger, 2014 – Wichowski 2013

Table 2, Countries or regions where the studies were conducted


Booth, et al believed that research designs are based on the inquiry within the qualitative, quantitative, and mixed methods offering specific directions for using research designs in an effective manner. Cresswell stated that the quantitative design includes true experiments along with applied behavioural analysis and single subject experiments. Non-experimental quantitative research is based on casual comparative research, when two or more groups are compared basing on the analysis of the dependent and independent variables. Qualitative design involves narrative research based on the illustrative studies of certain events and phenomena. Phenomenological design is also a preferred design of inquiry where lived experiences of people are analysed. Some types of the qualitative methods are case study, interview, collection data, observation, and systematic literature.

Table 3 below showed that none of the studies found involved surveying or any other kind of quantitative method. Sixteen publications used case studies to support their theoretical contents. Five studies involved interviewing people. One study was based on collecting data and observation. Finally, eleven studies reflected literature review.

Methodology # References

Case study 16 Permyakova 2014- Batora, 2008- Hanson 2012 – Vanc, 2012- Nweke, 2012- Copeland, 2009- Petrosyan, 2001 – Fong, 2010 – Aldiplomacy, 2013- Abbasov, 2007 – Chen, 2012- Hall, 2012- Wichowski 2013 – Zhong, 2013 – Hallams, 2010 – Khatib, 2012

Survey 0 None

Interview 5 Batora, 2008 – Huxley, 2014 – Abbasov, 2007 – Hayden, 2012 – Zhong, 2013

Collecting Data 1 Mediabadger, 2014

Observation 1 Shultz

Systematic literature 11 Grech, 2006 – Radunovie, 2010 – Permyakova 2014- Batora, 2008- Hanson 2012- Nweke, 2012- Copeland, 2009- Shultz- Petrosyan, 2001 – Fong, 2010 – Abbasov, 2007

others 2 Digital strategy, 2012, Grincheva

Table 3, Methodology adopted

Profiling table: Key findings, short brief, limitation and recommendationAs mentioned previously, the profiling table is constructed for the researcher in the field of e-diplomacy to find a starting point and useful references they can refer to as well as exploring areas that might need further investigations and future studies.

Paper Short brief/ Usefulness to researchers/ Limitations and recommendations

Grech, 2006 The aim of this master dissertation is to illustrate the effect of ICT on diplomacy and to show some methods used in diplomacy, which substituted the old ones. The author discussed that three major areas of diplomacy in which ICT has had significant effects exited. These areas are diplomatic missions, negotiations, and learning. The author also performed a SWOT analysis on virtual diplomacy

The thesis can be expanded to a PhD by supporting the theory with evidence such as interviewing diplomats ,surveying diplomats and considering some case studies

Radunovie, 2010 The objective of this master dissertation is to show how ICT has changed the major areas of diplomacy that are :

Bilateral and multilateral relation

Consular services


Public diplomacy

The organization of the ministry of foreign affairs

This is a very useful master dissertation that shows the theory of contemporary diplomacy, areas of diplomacy, which ICT can improve, risks, and among others.

Permyakova 2014 The paper discussed several common areas, where digital diplomacy is particularly effective, as foreign ministry resources that are public diplomacy, information management, and consular activities.

Moreover it shows four major risks of digital diplomacy that are :

The spread of extremism and terrorism

We can’t avoid error in using e-diplomacy tools

The level of communication culture is poor

Hacking and cyber attack

Finally the paper outlines some digital diplomacy toolbox which are:

Web 2.0

Social media (twitter in general)

Internet portal for the foreign office

Digital diplomacy manual

Linked-in for promotion

Diplopeida ( A US project)


Crowdsourcing (a modern approach to solving problems through common efforts by the participants in social network)

This article could be very beneficial to researchers as it sketches three main areas in e-diplomacy that are areas of uses, risks, and tools. Once can use that article and apply it to different case (i.e. different countries) and support his/her arguments with some empirical data from interviews and/or surveys.

Batora, 2008 Batora discussed two main questions regarding the IT effects on the organizational basis of diplomacy. First, what is the magnitude of the change? On another word, are the changes as radical and as extensive as the proponents of the IT-revolution in diplomacy claim. Second, what is the direction of the change?

He also showed how three main principles of the ministry of foreign affairs organization have transformed by ICT (hierarchy, secrecy and one way communication)

Batora has discussed in his research the Effects of IT on the organizational basis of diplomacy and he supported his argument with three case studies. There is however, no theory or study showing what the key factors influence diplomats’ adoption of E-diplomacy are, or the key factors influencing E-diplomacy implementation in different countries.

Moreover, the same methods could be applied to different region of the world as Batora only considered two European countries and one north American country.

Hanson 2012 How important is the ICT and new technologies to the Australian department of foreign affairs and trade, DFAT. It could increase the efficiency and improve both internal and external communication.

The paper argues that there is a tendency to associate e-diplomacy with social networking platforms, which is a limited aspect of e-diplomacy as it could be linked to enhance external communication, internal communication, and public diplomacy.

The paper also outlined some of the Australian e-diplomacy tools that are as follow:

Internal communication tools:

And internal wiki


Meeting tools

Remote access

Communities and internal blogs

Staffing profiles (LinkedIn)

External communication

Cross government and intra government wikis and websites

Cloud computing

Diaspora platform

Public diplomacy

Social media

Blog and Bloggers

Unlike many papers, this study did not just illustrate social media effects, but also outlined all the ICT tools, which can be used to contribute to diplomacy in Australia and comparing them to different countries.

The study could be expanded by comparing the results to other countries and maybe by applying qualitative methods, such as interviews, to get empirical evidences that support the theory.

Vanc, 2012 The paper shows a great example of how the US department of state (DoS) is applying the tools of e-diplomacy. Diplopia, the state diplomacy Wiki, which is a current system for knowledge sharing at the DoS, is examined.

A similar study can be performed to assess other e-diplomacy tools within or outside the US.

Nweke, 2012 The concept of digital diplomacy is explained by some people in terms of Actor-Network Theory or ANT (Nweke). This theory represents the relationship between “actor” and “actant,” actors are all non-human elements i.e. computers, texts, hybrids etc. Meanwhile the human element is referred to as actant. A theoretical framework includes analysis and linkage of ATN to international relation is reviewed.

The ATN is used if the is paper to show the interrelatedness in access and feedback associated in foreign relation.

A researcher could use this paper to relate or link ANT as a social theory to e-diplomacy

Copeland, 2009 The study outlined three areas that have been transformed by ICT revolution which are the practice of diplomacy, the management of the foreign ministry and the nature of foreign service. Three questions are addressed as well that are

Where are all of these going?

What it may mean for practitioners?

How Canada is responding to that?

The author also outlined some of the Canadian E-diplomacy constructive lessons and experience.

Finally he shed the light on some obstacles and constrains

The Canadian experience in e-diplomacy could be compared to different countries and can be supported by interviews and/or surveys.

Shultz The author of this article is completely against the idea of IT replacing the functions of diplomats and he discussed 9 important functions of diplomats that cannot be replaced by information technology.

A researcher might use this article to look at the negative side of e-diplomacy, compare it with the advantages, and then create a compromised framework or an ideal model for e-diplomacy or digital strategy.


There are no references.

The article was written basing on the author’s experience in diplomacy.

The article could be supported by some empirical evidences

Petrosyan, 2001 IT development puts diplomats under constant pressure of effectiveness and speed. It lays down new rules of international relations. It requires skills and abilities to deal with that massive flow of information technology and the internet. The main question in this paper is that “how does a Caucasian diplomats work with using IT?” The Question is answered in three steps that are receiving, processing, and delivering information.

Limitation: as the study was done basing on literature review, it lacks some empirical evidence that can support the theory.

Also as the study was conducted in that region (Caucasian countries) the resources might be very limited

Huxley, 2014 The paper discussed the effect of social media on the Ministry of foreign affairs of Finland. The author was researching how actors within the MFA of Finland see the organizational changes both inside and outside the MFA. Actor network theory (ANT) was used to explain the mediatisation. Interviews were conducted to derive to empirical data.

The study is great and it could be expanded to consider cases from different countries, as it is very limited to Finland. The results are context specific and could vary when different countries are considered.

Fong, 2010 This study shows the functions of diplomats in the context of the new IT environment. It also explains how these functions are affected, either directly or adversely, by IT.

The case study (Singapore) is a great example of how ICT can be intergraded with any business. Researchers can use this example to compare it to other countries

Limitation: as the study was done based on literature review, it lacks some empirical evidence that can support the theory.

Aldiplomacy, (2013 The article illustrates how social media and ICT can be beneficial to Qatari diplomats. The only article that was found has a case study of a Middle Eastern country.

The article can be expanded to a paper or a study in many ways:

Interviewing some Qatari officials

Surveying Qatari diplomats

Comparing the results to other leading countries such as the UK and the US

Outlining the Risk and the available tools in that region of the world

Abbasov, 2007 The paper discussed the effect (major challenges and benefits) of ICT on international affairs. The conclusion is that although ICT can help states run their communication in fast and cost effective ways, it could be vulnerable to cyber-attack.

Moreover, it examines the US experience using different programs such as the e-diplomats program (adoption)

Finally, the paper discusses the Australian DFAT digital diplomacy strategy and it showed that it declined in lately.

Mediabadger, 2014 An online article that outlines a country-to-country analysis statistics of digital diplomacy uses through social media. For example, it shows 72% of online adults visit Facebook at least once a month.

It could be very beneficial and useful for researchers who are seeking secondary data information about different social media platform used in many countries.

Digital strategy, 2012 This strategy conducted by the FCO covers the implication of digital for both the UK’s diplomatic work as well as the digital services to the British public abroad.

Researcher in E-diplomacy could benefit from the UK example of launching such strategy.

Chen, 2012 The study begins with a general literature on soft power, smart power and public diplomacy as well as the way China incorporates these tools into its governance. The attention is focused on the Chinese citizens’ online participation, which created state-society relations. To support the theory a case study named “anti-Carrefour incident” is examined to show how the Chinese people are using the online tools and smart power to influence the s