Digital Foreign Policy

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Almost all digital communication is currently based on the technical infrastructure of the internet. This infrastructure has a physical component in the form of a global cable network, but also depends crucially on software standards such as the TCP/IP protocol. Regulating this digital infrastructure was long regarded as an apolitical and purely technical coordination task. Increasingly, however, we are seeing that decisions about global digital infrastructures have enormous consequences for the future of digitalisation. Such decisions create path dependencies and alter power constellations, and increasingly represent an arena of political contestation. Internet governance, therefore, is far more than technical coordination; regulatory decisions in this field crucially shape the political development of digitalisation.

Analysis of institutional structures and actor constellations is one important starting point to approach this issue. Internationally, questions of digitalisation are negotiated at different levels and in a wide range of formats. Alongside classical inter-governmental forums like the EU and the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) there are also multi-stakeholder formats like the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) and the Internet Governance Forum, as well as bodies composed largely of technical experts, such as the Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF). The debate on “digital diplomacy”, moreover, poses the question of the impact of digitalisation on modes of interaction in international politics.


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Daniel Voelsen

One World, Two Visions, Multiple Nets?

Working Paper of the Global Issues Division, 2019/Nr. 2, November 2019, 5 pages
Daniel Voelsen

Cracks in the Internet’s Foundation

The Future of the Internet’s Infrastructure and Global Internet Governance

SWP Research Paper 2019/RP 14, November 2019, 35 Pages


Daniel Voelsen, Tim Rühlig, John Seaman

5G and the US–China Tech Rivalry – a Test for Europe’s Future in the Digital Age

How Can Europe Shift from Back Foot to Front Foot?

SWP Comment 2019/C 29, June 2019, 8 Pages


Annegret Bendiek, Nadine Godehardt, Jürgen Neyer, David Schulze

Preventing digital trench warfare between the EU and China

Digital geopolitics is taking center stage in EU-China relations. What conflicts might be relevant in the next 15 years? Annegret Bendiek, Nadine Godehardt, Jürgen Neyer, and David Schulze present four scenarios.

Point of View, 26.03.2019
Marcel Dickow, Daniel Voelsen

The Global Debate on the Future of Artificial Intelligence

The Need for International Regulation and Opportunities for German Foreign Policy

SWP Comment 2018/C 23, May 2018, 8 Pages
Corneliu Bjola

Trends and Counter-Trends in Digital Diplomacy

Working Paper, Project “Diplomacy in the 21st Century”, No 18, September 2017, 10 Pages
Ben Wagner

Agile, engaged, effective diplomacy? Finding the digital in diplomacy

Working Paper, Project “Diplomacy in the 21st Century”, No 16, September 2017, 7 Pages
Corneliu Bjola

Adapting Diplomacy to the Digital Age:

Managing the Organisational Culture of Ministries of Foreign Affairs

Working Paper, Project “Diplomacy in the 21st Century”, No 09, March 2017, 10 Pages
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