The conduct of data diplomacy requires from diplomats specific ability to sort out and classify available big data for appropriate use. It also demands insights and experiences from new classes of diplomats to facilitate and assure its flawless use in dealings and handling matters of national concerns

The meteoric development of information technology and computer technology coupled with the fast spread of the internet has had tremendous impact on the work culture and lifestyle of all across the globe. The securing, storing and use of data, in particular big data, are transforming the face of the world, touching each and every aspect of human life. Experts agree that big data is an information asset characterised by such high volume, velocity and variety as to require technology and analytical methods for its transformation into value.

To some people, data are reckoning the storing of big data running into terabytes and petabytes, leave alone megabytes and gigabytes.

5G technology is fast spreading its humongous wings to help store big data in technologically advanced countries. When the next generation, 6G, technology comes into use, possibly after six or seven years, the storing of big data will be infinitely infinite.

Doubtless, big data will influence every step of human life. However, it may be noted that big data is not yet systemically collected, well-sourced and managed, and distributed. International convention is still conspicuously absent on the legal use of big data with its production and storage resting in the hands of private entities. Verification and veracity are still a great concern for the users, especially for official and diplomatic purpose. However, its demand and use is on the rise due to its availability at ease.

Nomenclature data diplomacy has been on its traction since 2017 when Diplo Foundation based in Geneva and Malta started research on its functionality.

It was commissioned by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Finland.

People are well aware of the use of data in small amounts for official and diplomatic businesses.

This article is concerned with big data alone, hinting at the conduct of data diplomacy.

In today's IT-dominated world, big data algorithms have become essential and valuable as a means of making use of big data through sorting, recognising connections and funding patterns.

The definition adopted by the Oxford English Online Dictionary explains big data as "extremely large data set that may be analysed conceptually to reveal patterns, trends and associations, especially relating to human behaviour and interaction."

The new concept of data diplomacy refers to the infusion of big data and relevant expertise on data into relations between nation states and other entities. In both a positive and negative way, data affect diplomatic process, sometimes triggering policy actions.

Data can be a tool precipitating, driving or else impending change. IT, therefore, follows that the concept of data diplomacy would relate to a broad spectrum of interactions between data scientists and diplomats, as well as diplomatic principles, practices and objectives.

Some experts of Great Britain observed in 2019, "Indeed as a construct of data diplomacy, it connects and attempts to describe the motivations, methods, values, polices and other dimensions of negotiations involving data or data value."

The evolving pattern of data diplomacy also points out something larger about the trajectory of diplomacy, not seen in decades.

The conduct of data diplomacy requires from diplomats specific ability to sort out and classify available big data for appropriate use. It also demands insights and experiences from new classes of diplomats to facilitate and assure its flawless use in dealings and handling matters of national concerns and public interests.

Diplo Foundation's Data and AI team has developed a Data Engine, consisting of a Data Sandbox and Countries-Companies Comparison tool. The Data Sandbox aims to provide a better understanding on a wider variety of data sets ranging from climate change, COVID-19 and digital development.

The tool has been developed with the intention of helping diplomats and researchers identify patterns in a country's position across the above sets and ultimately trigger research, as stated by Ms. Katharina Hone in 2018.

Although this new set of data diplomacy may be easy to handle for experienced people, it is a new challenge to the diplomats of Nepal.

Data diplomacy is not yet a distinct discipline of the statecraft, but it can be described as an extended dimension of conventional diplomacy as practised globally. Emerging dynamics brought by IT and the internet have perceptibly induced data diplomacy to correlate with the core functions of conventional diplomacy.

New space has to be accommodated for data diplomacy while conducting diplomacy by reassessing all that to meet the emerging challenge.

It is evident that big data emanates from global social media, corporate houses, government authorities, various professional entities, lobbying and interest groups, civil societies, and a host of other internal and external entities across the globe. Diplomats are essentially required to weigh their value and make eclectic choices amidst the huge heterogeneities of big data to serve the national interest of their home country.

They can tactfully use big data in various fields of national interest. They can use data diplomacy in core diplomatic activities, such as negotiation, communication, reporting and a host of other essentials.

More importantly, a huge emphasis has been placed on having the right kind of data in working toward the sustainable development goals (SDGs).

An expert interested in SDGs points out, "We are encouraged to 'measure what we treasure' to achieve the 2030 development agenda and to have appropriate policies in place," which indicates the usefulness of data diplomacy in attaining the goals and targets as sponsored and supported by the United Nations.

Data diplomacy is now irreversible. Quest for preparedness and dynamism should be on the cards to make its best use.

A version of this article appears in the print on September 6 2021, of The Himalayan Times.