I know what you’ll say. “Where have you been? Smart phones and tablet computers were hardly invented just yesterday! And havn’t you been using an iPhone and an iPad for years?” You are right and you are right again. But for my Embassy as a diplomatic platform for America today is a new day: Our entire staff will receive new iPhones today as a uniform technology platform and a new tool in our diplomatic arsenal. In addition, we are employing tablet computers — iPads to be exact — to use for Embassy tasks that until now required lots of paper and heavy briefcases. In Estonia, our diplomats on duty to assist American citizens and Estonians in need of our consular services will now carry all the information they need in a single iPad that connects them directly to the Embassy, to Washington, and to the world. Also, as part of our outreach to our Estonian hosts, by the end of this year we will roll out the U.S. Embassy Tallinn Mobile American Corner — an iPad-based ultralight mobile mini-Embassy if you wish — that our diplomats will be able to set up in minutes virtually anywhere in the country to bring America to the Estonian people. And no surprise, it is an Estonian software company that is helping us design the application to run our new system!
But back to our iPhones. In a few minutes from writing this short blog, I will be meeting with my American and Estonian team to encourage them to let their imaginations run wild (legally that is) as we come up with new ways to deploy this tool in the service of the American people. I am determined not to sound like the government official that I am during this meeting, but rather as the closest I can get to a garage brainstormer in the Steve Jobs and Bill Gates tradition. I won’t be able to hide that I am already 57 years old, but I will also not highlight it. In my vision and in my mind I feel like I a twenty-something, terribly excited about the possibilities of new information technology in the service of diplomacy — a centuries old information profession.
So I am off now to rouse my diplomatic troops, but I am first taking off my tie.