President Obama Live on CO.NX: Shall I link to this?

Missing links fm websites of US Missions in top Muslim countries

The darndest thing really – you’d expect that links to President Obama’s live speech on Co.NX would be carried by all US missions in countries with substantial Muslim population. Below is a quick rundown of the US Embassies and what resources they have posted online for this major speech in Cairo. Coverage seems to range as follows:

CO.NX – LIVE webcast link

SMS text – link to speech highlight updates from

Press coverage – links to news

None – no coverage, zero links to this event (see US Embassy Baghdad)

Top 12 Countries with largest Muslim populations
List of countries followed by population count
(see full list)

1. Indonesia: 207,000,105
US Embassy Jakarta has links to SMS text, WH and but no direct CO.NX link; Surabaya has no coverage

2. Pakistan: 167,430,801
– CO.NX links in Islamabad and Karachi; Peshawar and Lahore have no coverage

3. India: 156,254,615
– CO.NX and SMS links in New Delhi, Mumbai and Hyderabad websites; SMS link in Chennai, none in Kolkata

4. Bangladesh: 132,446,365
– CO.NX link in US Embassy Dhaka website; no coverage in Bangladesh VPPs

5. Turkey: 70,800,000
-CO.NX link in Istanbul, press coverage in Ankara, no coverage in Adana

6. Egypt: 70,530,237
US Embassy Cairo website has press coverage only

7. Nigeria: 64,385,994
US Embassy Abuja website has links to and SMS

8. Iran: 64,089,571
– (no US Embassy website)

9. Algeria: 32,999,883
US Embassy Algiers website has link to SMS text

10. Morocco: 32,300,410
US Embassy Rabat has link to SMS text; no coverage in Casablanca

11. Afghanistan: 31,571,023
US Embassy Kabul website has no coverage but its Facebook page has the CO.NX link

12. Saudi Arabia: 26,417,599
US Mission Saudi Arabia websites has press coverage of trip and speech but no CO.NX links

This is not the first time the President will give a speech overseas; and this is not the first time that CO.NX has been made available to the online community. So I’m amazed that the embassies online display for this event is not more “put together.” In some websites the letters are so tiny, you need a magnifying glass to find these links. Some provide links to CO.NX with no accompanying explanation. So if you want to watch the speech online but don’t know what to look for, well, tough luck. Still others post links to CO.NX in their website or Facebook page but not in other associated pages like virtual presence and IRC pages.

This almost reminds me of Echo in the TV series, Dollhouse. After every imprint the dialog is always the same: Echo: “Shall I go now?” Topher Brink, scientist: “If you like.”

Shall I link to this? If you like…

In fairness, it must be said that at posts overseas, embassy websites are run by the information management office (IM), or the public affairs crew. The IM folks, of course, are dual or triple hatted to do more than website updates.

We need a herder over at “R” telling the flock “I need these links up yesterday.” In a way this is an octopus like operation with hundreds of arms, learning to dance together gracefully. Maybe Ms. McHale and Mr. Crowley can do something about getting them to learn appropriate new dance steps?

Watch or join the online discussion @

Related Post:
President Obama in Egypt – LIVE on CO.NX

President Obama in Egypt – LIVE on CO.NX

Land of Peace (and online world) Awaits

CO.NX will broadcast President Barack Obama’s speech live from Cairo on Thursday, June 4 (@ 13:10 Egypt time; 6:10am EDT (1010GMT)). The site is using the Adobe Acrobat Connect Pro Meeting platform and a thousand discussants can be accommodated on its page. Online participants may join the web simulcast and online discussion on a first-come, first-serve basis on June 4.

The CO.NX virtual guestbook opened on June 1st. The page is already populated with greetings (mostly favorable comments) and hopeful wishes from a host of countries: Syria, Egypt, Pakistan, Dubai, Indonesia, Gaza City, Afghanistan, Argentina, India, South Africa, Japan, Ghana, Tunisia, Brasilia, and Panama.

I have been to a similar CO.NX event before where the moderator kept interrupting the commenters which can get pretty irritating quickly. I have to say that the staff here is different (I’ll have to check it again when the speech unfolds). But when they get something close to a rant, they remain courteous, and the Q&A seems to be seamless:

BROADCAST PAKISTAN: (02:49) How Long , OBAMA TEAM will continue to let world be a War Zone amidst economic stress and world peace deficite?

CO.NX Moderator (Mark): (02:49) Thanks for your comment. We believe the Administration is working to end conflicts around the world, this trip is part of an effort to build bridges to Muslims everywhere.

The staff also patiently explains the process to its users:

Karim: (02:50) how does this go i dont understand

CO.NX Moderator (Mark): (02:50) Hi Karim, welcome. Here is what will happen in this chat. On June 4 you will see the President broacast in the Pod in the upper left. We will also be taking your comments and thoughts as the speech goes on and then after the speech. President Obama and his team want to know what you and others around the world have to say about issues that affect us all.

An online poll in the same page asks the question: Will President Obama’s speech help relations between the U.S. and the Middle East? Of those who voted, 93% said “yes.”

CO.NX is a project of the U.S. State Department’s Bureau of International Information Programs (IIP). I’d be interested to see how many people actually comes back to watch and/or join the discussion during his speech tomorrow.

Watch or join the online discussion @

Related Post:
President Obama Live on CO.NX: Shall I link to this?

US Public Diplomacy 2.0: Strategy and Challenges

The State Department’s newly confirmed Under Secretary for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs, Judith McHale and its new Assistant Secretary for Public Affairs PJ Crowley have made their introductory posts in the official blog, DipNote. Ms. McHale, former Foreign Service brat, writes about Renewing America’s Engagement With the People of the World: “the United States must continue to move beyond traditional government-to-government diplomacy and seek innovative ways to communicate and engage directly with foreign publics.”

Mr. Crowley writes about the role of PA: Public Affairs Must Inform Foreign Policy and his goals going forward:

“One of my goals is to have the State Department communicate its message more strategically. In order to do this, we must be dynamic and use all available means both old and new media – traditional methods such as the Daily Press Briefings as well as experimenting with new media, such as Facebook, Twitter, and video through the Internet. The culmination of this effort will be a virtual presence that is engaged in a global dialogue, 24 hours a day, seven days a week, in all corners of the world.”

There is no perfect time to talk about strategy than the present. The GAO report last month on US Public Diplomacy (GAO-09-679SP) faulted the agency’s lack of a plan to support common communication objectives. To give a quick summary:

The overall goal of U.S. strategic communication efforts is to understand, engage, inform, and influence the attitudes and behaviors of global audiences in support of U.S. strategic interests. U.S. strategic communication efforts are distributed across several entities, including State, BBG, USAID, and DOD, and function under the broad guidance of the White House and National Security Council. Within the U.S. government, State’s Under Secretary for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs has the lead for U.S. strategic communication efforts.

Beginning in 2003, GAO recommended that State develop an agency-level plan to integrate its diverse public diplomacy activities and direct them towards common objectives. We noted that the absence of a strategy may hinder the department’s ability to guide its programs towards the achievement of concrete and measurable results. State responded to this recommendation with improvements to its strategic planning process; however, the department still lacks an agency-level plan that specifically supports the current national strategy.

In the absence of supporting agency plans, no clear link can be established between national communication objectives, agency programs, and results, raising doubts about whether agency programs have been strategically designed to support a common purpose in the most efficient and effective manner possible.

Given the agency’s initial foray into Web 2.0, the GAO also pointed out some challenges and practical considerations associated with the new social media:

First, there is a general lack of adequate research and understanding of how government entities can and should operate in a social network environment.

, agencies will generally lose control over content since participants in a dialogue or collaborative project are free to voice their own opinions and distribute information as they choose. As noted by one senior State official, however, a difference in opinions is one of the core strengths of the approach and the underlying basis for its effectiveness.

, views expressed by U.S. officials on, for example, social networking sites or blogs, become part of the permanent discussion record, which raises practical questions about how best to mitigate potential instances of miscommunication.

, the level of available resources is small compared to the magnitude of the global communications environment. For example, State’s Digital Outreach team consists of eight individuals seeking to provide a U.S. point of view into a communication environment consisting of millions of personal blogs and discussion forums on thousands of Web sites.

, this approach is likely to pose technical challenges, as agency efforts to plan, coordinate, fund, implement, and evaluate their Public Diplomacy 2.0 efforts could strain systems and capabilities that have had difficulty operating smoothly in the less complex environment of traditional public diplomacy efforts.

The GAO crafted the following oversight questions:

1. To what extent will the Public Diplomacy 2.0 approach be included in the President’s December 2009 national communication strategy?

2. What criteria should be used to guide strategic investment decisions regarding this new approach to public diplomacy?

3. How do agencies intend to address the challenges identified by GAO such as the lack of in-depth research on social networking and resource constraint issues?

4. Are there other challenges and practical considerations that should be considered in adopting this new approach?

* * *

Later, we’ll try to review the current digital footprint of US embassies employing the new media approach.

But just quickly I’d like to note what GAO says on public diplomacy lead: “Within the U.S. government, State’s Under Secretary for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs has the lead for U.S. strategic communication efforts.”

Remember that report earlier this year about the Pentagon’s plan to employ 27,000 people just for recruitment, advertising and public relations? We were talking about $547 million that goes into DOD’s public affairs operation alone, a drop in the bucket in its humongous budget. State’s FY10 budget request calls for $520 million “for public diplomacy to engage foreign audiences and win support for U.S. foreign policy goals.” That’s money that will fund public diplomacy operations in 309 US missions and other presence overseas. The entire State Department has about 30,000 people with only about a thousand working in public diplomacy.

So it does give you pause — how that computes in the real world where the “lead” has less money and less people? Also there is that new entity called the Global Engagement Directive, that’s supposed to coordinate public diplomacy, foreign assistance and international communications at a single White House desk (h/t to Spencer Ackerman).

One could argue that a true leader can lead from any chair, big or small, in front or at the back. Let’s hope that’s the case here.

Related Items:

  • GAO: U.S. Public Diplomacy: Key Issues for Congressional Oversight
    May 27, 2009 (GAO-09-679SP)

  • 27,000 for the Pentagon (AP report is no longer available online; but you can read it here)

SFRC Hearings: Eric Schwartz, Andrew Shapiro

111th Congress
1st Session

Wednesday, June 3, 2009
Time: 2:30 P.M.
Place: 419 Dirksen Senate Building
Presiding: Senator Boxer

Senator Boxer’s Opening Statement


  • Eric P. Schwartz
    to be Assistant Secretary of State
    for Population, Refugees, and Migration

  • Andrew J. Shapiro
    to be Assistant Secretary of State
    for Political-Military Affairs

To view the video of the confirmation hearings, click on the heading “NOMINATIONS” on this page and the Committee Channel should pop up. Links to testimonies/opening statements wil be added as soon as they are available online.