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Transformation, Not Texting: The State Dept's Vision for a Wired World

BY Nancy Scola | Monday, August 24 2009

Points off to David Rothkoph trotting out the "pantsuits" trope in the very lede of his Washington Post piece yesterday on Hillary Clinton. But Rothkoph should be given more credit for attempting to slot Clinton's embrace of technology into the bigger picture of what the Secretary of State is attempting to do in Foggy Bottom. It's not an easy trick to pull off. (I should mention that my own attempt is here.) As every "e-campaign" manager knows, it's tempting to put mobile, the Internet, and other digital wizardry into its own box and present it with a wink and a bow. It's true on campaigns, even post-Obama '08. And it's proving to be true in bureaucracies, even in the Obama Administration.

Rothkoph offers a brief sketch of PdF '09 keynote Alec Ross's role at State:

Clinton recruited Alec Ross, one of the leaders of Obama's technology policy team, to the seventh floor of the State Department as her senior adviser for innovation. His mission is to harness new information tools to advance U.S. interests -- a task made easier as the Internet and mobile networks have played starring roles in recent incidents, from Iran to the Uighur uprising in western China to Moldova. Whether through a telecommunications program in Congo to protect women from violence or text messaging to raise money for Pakistani refugees in the Swat Valley, technology has been deployed to reach new audiences.