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Ranch State and CitizenSpace: Digital Democracy and Web Strategies for the United States and the United Kingdom
Unformatted Document Text:  13 presence strategy? Most of the evidence in this paper is related to the development of a web strategy for the State Department, however, I will provide some information related to the UK FCO site to serve as contrast. For the State Department, IT and ICTs in particular have been a preoccupation since the mid to late 1990s. This concern was driven by two concurrent developments: the increasing IT “performance gap” between the State Department and other federal agencies (the Department of Defense, in particular), and the merger of the United States Information Agency (USIA) into the State Department. Recognition of a lack of real skills in IT and the heightened importance of public diplomacy become the driving force behind serious overhauls of the State Department IT infrastructure, as reported in the United States Advisory Commission on Public Diplomacy report in 1998. The USIA was already implementing ICTs in embassies around the world prior to the merger with the State Department, in the form of VSAT (Very Small Aperture Terminals) that used the Internet to connect officers through text, video and audio capabilities. Meanwhile, the State Department, as of 1998, was in the process of maintaining and upgrading four separate and non-compatible IT systems that as of that time had no access to the Internet. (H.L. Stimson Center Report: Equipped for the Century, 1998). By the end of the 1990s, the IT infrastructure condition at the Department of State had reached a critical point. In 1997, Secretary of State Madeleine Albright made the construction of information infrastructure one of her most “critical and urgent objectives” (CSIS Report: Diplomacy in the Information Age, 1998. p 59). This was no surprise, considering the dismal state of IT at the State Department during this era. As one internal embassy memo stated, “We’re de facto cut off. We do not have access. It’s only going to get worse if we sit still. The world will change whether we like it or not” (CSIS Report, 1998). The consequences were summed up as inefficiency, denial of information and information-processing capabilities, and interestingly, conceptual stagnation. (CSIS Report, 1998, p. 61). Because of a lack of access to information -

Authors: Hayden, Craig.
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13
presence strategy? Most of the evidence in this paper is related to the development of a web
strategy for the State Department, however, I will provide some information related to the UK
FCO site to serve as contrast.
For the State Department, IT and ICTs in particular have been a preoccupation since the
mid to late 1990s. This concern was driven by two concurrent developments: the increasing IT
“performance gap” between the State Department and other federal agencies (the Department of
Defense, in particular), and the merger of the United States Information Agency (USIA) into the
State Department. Recognition of a lack of real skills in IT and the heightened importance of
public diplomacy become the driving force behind serious overhauls of the State Department IT
infrastructure, as reported in the United States Advisory Commission on Public Diplomacy report
in 1998.
The USIA was already implementing ICTs in embassies around the world prior to the
merger with the State Department, in the form of VSAT (Very Small Aperture Terminals) that
used the Internet to connect officers through text, video and audio capabilities. Meanwhile, the
State Department, as of 1998, was in the process of maintaining and upgrading four separate and
non-compatible IT systems that as of that time had no access to the Internet. (H.L. Stimson
Center Report: Equipped for the Century, 1998).
By the end of the 1990s, the IT infrastructure condition at the Department of State had
reached a critical point. In 1997, Secretary of State Madeleine Albright made the construction of
information infrastructure one of her most “critical and urgent objectives” (CSIS Report:
Diplomacy in the Information Age, 1998. p 59). This was no surprise, considering the dismal
state of IT at the State Department during this era. As one internal embassy memo stated, “We’re
de facto cut off. We do not have access. It’s only going to get worse if we sit still. The world will
change whether we like it or not” (CSIS Report, 1998). The consequences were summed up as
inefficiency, denial of information and information-processing capabilities, and interestingly,
conceptual stagnation. (CSIS Report, 1998, p. 61). Because of a lack of access to information -


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