Now Malta’s Deputy Permanent Representative in New York, Bernard Hamilton is planning to connect diplomats around the world with his new iD network, Venetia van Kuffeler reports
iD is the brainchild of Bernard Hamilton, currently Deputy Permanent Representative of Malta to the United Nations and former Deputy High Commissioner in London. Established in September, the iD platform was intended to act as an exclusive network for diplomats, seeking to facilitate networking and online communication between its members.
Picture this: you are in the UN General Assembly Hall in New York, late at night; the only representative from your mission. A vote is about to be called on an issue of particular importance to your country. You immediately set out to seek friendly faces to garner support for your country’s position, only to find that most diplomats are not in the hall, others are having a coffee somewhere to stay awake. You realise that you will not be able to get in touch with all the people you would have liked to. If only you had a way of communicating with your colleagues instantly, and get a reply from them in real time. This would enable you to alert them that a vote was going to be taken and to present them with arguments in favour of your country’s position. This is why iD was created.
iD offers diplomats an opportunity to interact with fellow colleagues in the UK as well as diplomats worldwide by providing a secure, trusted environment, and saves them valuable time in connecting with the right people, leads and information.
To date, diplomats from over 140 countries are represented on iD. Once registered, members can create and join groups specialising in their area of expertise, engage in group chats and one-to-one conversations with fellow diplomats in real time, set up events, upload documents to a reference library and create blogs and polls, amongst other features. This provides diplomatic groups and associations with continuity and institutional memory, both things that are often lost when diplomats move from one country to another. Given that an average diplomatic posting lasts four years, and the average diplomatic career 25 years, iD has the potential to transform the face of diplomacy.
iD aims to make the transition as simple as possible by making it extremely easy for moderators to manage a Group. Firstly, no running costs are incurred, and secondly, moderating a Group on iD only takes a couple of minutes a day. Due to the interactive nature of the platform, Groups are self-sustaining. As for institutional memory, a library with a search function has been created for each Group. This allows group members to upload documents, photos, links to URLs and discussions, which can be accessed solely by Group members at any time. Effectively, despite diplomats’ nomadic lifestyle, each Group will have its heritage and legacy on iD.
Speaking to diplomats already using the platform, it was easy to see how this network will make their lives easier, both professionally and personally. ‘Throughout our career in diplomacy,’ said one diplomat, ‘we cross each other’s paths, so networking not only helps us in our current posting but is also instrumental in future postings.’ As all diplomats know, as soon as they are accredited to a new country, one of their first thoughts is to try and contact diplomats they know who are already living there. The iD platform will make it easy to identify and contact all of one’s diplomatic connections in a new posting. Settling in in a new country becomes more straightforward and diplomats are quicker to get to work. When diplomats arrive at a new posting, the ‘To Do’ list seems endless: finding a house, contacting utility companies, furniture stores, learning the language, finding your way around the city etc… iD aims to keep diplomats connected to those who have been there and done that. Families with children can get in touch with diplomats who are already posted to the country of destination before they even get there and get a head start on schooling, health services, childcare, entertainment options for their children and, most importantly, make friends. Everyone knows what a challenge it can be for spouses (especially those with children), to settle in a new country. iD aspires to make this transition smoother.
Another diplomat I spoke to told me that when he starts a new posting, his heart warms up every time he comes across a diplomat he knew in a previous country. ‘With our families being so far, our diplomat colleagues become our extended family, and some really good friendships are made over the years.’ iD will make it easier for everyone to stay in touch and keep the friendships alive.
The vision is for iD to take communication between diplomats to a whole new level, using today’s technology. Can the iD network revolutionise communication in diplomacy? Watch this space.