Gen Z’s Two Cents on Digital Diplomacy: What’s Missing From Indonesia?

Winda A. Pratiwi
4 min readMar 8, 2019
Inter-connected platforms within the new age of diplomacy.

“Digital diplomacy connects individuals and we call it as earthly diplomacy between humans and diplomacy. I think this issue discussed during the meeting. Innovation and digital diplomacy have become a necessity,” -Foreign Minister Retno Marsudi, remarks from The International Seminar of Digital Diplomacy on July 12, 2018 in Jakarta

In the digital era, everything has to keep up with all the technological advancements, including politics and decision making. The emerging trend in 21st century diplomacy is something the youth is also familiar with. Digital diplomacy or e-diplomacy, is often described as the use of digital platforms for diplomatic means. In order to engage with not-so-millenial targeted followers (which often misleads to the ‘youth’ reference — coming from the targeted Gen Z myself), a lot of governmental bodies are required to adapt to change — as it should be.

Denmark has been the pioneer in this matter. Casper Klynge was appointed the country’s tech ambassador, and the first tech ambassador in the world, forming a new branch of diplomacy between tech and governments. Other Scandinavian countries also have the similar growth pattern in realizing the importance of tech and digital diplomacy, including the need of its literacy. Norway, for me, is a very nice example on how digital diplomacy is exercised.

As an Instagram user, we know that Instagram stories are often more visible than the actual Instagram feed photos due to the unchronogical timeline that it now has. However, there’s an explanation on why Instagram stories are now arguably more popular than the feed itself. Never forget that Instagram stole this infamous idea from Snapchat (that’s Silicon Valley for you, folks!). People tend to put their ordinary moments like picking on their little siblings, cuddling with their pets, shopping at Walmart, or working from Starbucks, at Instagram Stories. Feed is often treated as the gallery, whereas Stories are for moments that will disappear after 24 hours — it won’t be there forever unless you want to put it on your Highlights section.

According to recode.net, Instagram Stories have attracted 400 million daily users, twice the number of Snapchat as a whole application, making it the fastest-growing media format in 2018. Some 31 percent of Instagram users post a Story every month, according to a recent survey from RBC Capital, up from 21 percent a year prior. 47 percent of users watch them at least weekly, up from 32 percent a year ago. The numbers are predicted to always go up.

Norway’s digital diplomacy strategy is something to look for. The two samples that are going to be elaborated are two official accounts of Norwegian Government’s Instagram; @norwayun (Norway in United Nations) and @nikolaiastrup (Norway’s Minister of Digitalisation, former Minister of International Development).

We can see an uncanny resemblance between these two different Instagram profiles. Looks ordinary, but what makes them stand out is the Instagram Stories with specific highlights, mainly on event storylines, campaigns and diplomatic missions.
This screenshot is an example of @norwayun’s #Norway4UNSC highlight on Instagram. Notice how the same photo is posted twice in order to put an additional word. It also plays a crucial role in enhancing the attention span of the viewers. The circled figure in the middle is Crown Prince Haakon on the DJ Deck of #Norway4UNSC, an interesting sight for Gen Z to further notice Norway’s campaign on aiming for UNSC non-permanent membership.
Notice another similar pattern with Nikolai Astrup’s MWC19 Instagram Stories highlight. A photo is posted twice along with the English translation to enhance the attention span and understanding of MWC19.

We can see that both samples elaborated above, either Norwegian delegations for the UN or Minister Nikolai Astrup, clearly utilise the feature rather well. From an outsider’s perspective who has no idea on Norway’s policies and activities, this simple yet thoughtful digital strategy surely leaves a remark on what the Norwegian Government is doing. Not only about the substantive matters, you can also see what they do beside diplomacy and all that jazz, their ‘humane’ version, a rather soft spot for the audience, like the Crown Prince on the DJ deck.

Enough case studies from the Western world, let’s discuss Indonesia. According to a data released from Instagram last year, it has no less than 45 million users in Indonesia, making the country the biggest social media market in the Asia Pacific region. Indonesia’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Minister Retno Marsudi from MoFA are two prominent figures in Indonesia’s digital diplomacy trends. Indonesian diplomats are also trained firsthand on how to blog and vlog.

Two Instagram handles, Minister Retno on the left and Indonesia’s MOFA on the right. Notice how many the followers are compared to Norway’s, and how little their Instagram stories are. Typical Indonesian government?

One highlight from Minister Retno Marsudi, and only three highlights from Indonesia’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, with over a hundred thousand followers on Instagram.

Let’s move to another example on how the supposed icons of Indonesian digital diplomacy tools could be utilised on other Indonesian ministers like Sri Mulyani @smindrawati on Instagram (Indonesian Minister of Finance).

Which page is more engaging and informative — Minister of Finance with the feed aesthetics and multiple highlights, or the supposed leader of digital diplomacy, our own MoFA and Minister of Foreign Affairs? You tell me.

If Indonesia were to lead the digital diplomacy revolution in Southeast Asia, Asia and optimistically on a global scale, whoever handles the digital strategy along with its tools should take a look and put a little more effort. Looking at the number of our youth in social media, especially Instagram, there is an enormous potential that can be optimised just by paying attention to small things, such as organizing effective social platform handles like Instagram stories, and raising the attention span even further. Just a little can do so much.

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