February 3, 2012
I’m at a State Department conference at Georgetown U about real-time data. I’m unfortunately going to have to miss a chunk of the afternoon due to another obligation.)
NOTE: Live-blogging. Getting things wrong. Missing points. Omitting key information. Introducing artificial choppiness. Over-emphasizing small matters. Paraphrasing badly. Not running a spellpchecker. Mangling other people’s ideas and words. You are warned, people.
After a welcome by Dean Paul Schiff Berman, Ambassador Janice Jacobs — Ass’t Sect’y for Consular Affairs — talks about the importance of the Net and real-time awareness to State’s mission. She says she joined before email and Skype, when international phone calls were expensive. “Now we use Facebook, Twitter and blogs in ways we could not have imagined.” State uses the Net for internal communication and to communicate with us. In the old days, urgent messages were disseminated by “wardens,” designated residents who would spread the word to their neighbors. On Dec. 22 of this year, the American consulate in Mexico, urgent warnings about buses were posted on Twitter. Journalists have tweeted before being arrested in other countries, alerting the embassy. American passengers on the shipwrecked cruise liner updated their Facebook pages, and that info made its way to the embassy that could help them. When there’s an emergency, the Bureau of Consular Affairs creates a task force that sets up the appropriate social media, and has created databases of info for victims. She ends by quoting Steve Jobs: “We need to be willing to stay foolish.” [As always, my liveblogging is far choppier than her actual talk.]
(Check @travelgov to see how the bureau is using Twitter.)