Speaking today in Marrakesh, Secretary Hillary Clinton announced a new initiative of the State Department, “Civil Society 2.0.” Under this program, State will provide funding and expertise to allow grassroots civil society organizations around the world use technology to grow and work more effectively. From the press release:
“Civil Society 2.0” includes the following components:
- Deploying a team of experienced technologists to work with civil society organizations around the globe to provide training and support to build their digital capacity. The competencies developed in the trainings will include:
- How to build a website
- How to blog
- How to launch a text messaging campaign
- How to build an online community
- How to leverage social networks for a cause
- Partnering these technologists with local civil society organizations and governments to develop and implement technology-based solutions to local problems.
- Publishing interactive “how to” programs and curriculum online to help organizations that do not have access to in-person assistance.
- Creating a curated open platform that allows any citizen or company to develop, share or suggest content for the curriculum.
- Allocating $5 million in grant funds for pilot programs in the Middle East and North Africa that will bolster the new media and networking capabilities of civil society organizations and promote online learning in the region.
In the past, this kind of capacity building would have been undertaken by Western governments and NGOs. By letting foreign peoples and governments tackle their own problems, it’s much more likely that those problems will be addressed and solved in effective, locally-relevant ways. What’s more, this spread of technology will help promote American ideas, and make the U.S. a more sympathetic actor in the eyes of those around the world.
This is yet another element of the very savvy “21st Century Statecraft” that Secretary Clinton and her advisor Alec Ross are applying around the globe, and a part of the “Smart Power” approach to global leadership that the Obama Administration has embraced.