Digital Diplomacy and Statecraft: Digital Transformation Lab (DigiTraL)

  • The Digital Transformation Lab (DigiTraL) has a tripod structure. The lab currently focusses on Leg I – “Digital Diplomacy and Statecraft”, funded by the Federal Foreign Office. (Legs II “Digital Development and Sustainability” and III “Digital Warfare and Peace” are planned to complement the work at a later stage.) "DigiTraL Diplo" focuses on how digital transformation offers new opportunities, challenges, and instruments for foreign policy. It will identify the chances and (security) threats of digitalization to advance adequate responses of (digital) diplomacy.
    FFO, 2021-2023


    Dr. Christian von Soest

    Lead Research Fellow / Head of Research Programme "Peace and Security"

    Prof. Dr. Jann Lay

    Lead Research Fellow / Head of Research Programme "Globalisation and Development"

    Research Questions

    Digital technologies are fundamentally transforming societies worldwide. The Global South is taker and important shaper in this change. The GIGA Digital Transformation Lab will analyse drivers and consequences of the global digital transformation and deliver useful impulses for German foreign policy.

    As DigiTraL emerges in close collaboration with the Federal Foreign Office (FFO), we believe it will serve as a vital resource for researchers to better understand the connections and implications of a global digital transformation, and for diplomats and practitioners to handle and shape these transformations effectively. DigiTraL Diplo will investigate both the challenges and opportunities that emerge from two trends.

    On the one hand, digital platforms are facilitating the emergence of a far bigger set of actors with amplified voice. This “flattening” effect of digitalisation considerably complicates the process of foreign policy making and diplomacy and its implementation for all states. On the other hand, interdependence gets weaponised and some states emerge as hubs of information networks, power imbalances between states increase.

    DigiTraL Diplo will investigate both the challenges and opportunities that emerge from these trends. It will analyse the implications of fragmentation of the global digital space in an era of increasing decoupling and growing nationalism. It will study the possibilities of reforming and updating multilateralism to work in a digital age. In doing so, it will explore current debates on connectivity and data protection but also on digital interference.

    Contribution to International Research

    Digitalisation and new technologies will carry power shifts. German foreign policy has an interest in making partnership-based offers of cooperation on digitalisation to countries in Asia, Africa, Latin America, and the Middle East. A digitally sovereign Germany will be able to foster exchange and build global partnerships. Diplomacy with its world-spanning apparatus could become an access point to an overlooked and unused potential. This could help in the promotion of values that Germany and Europe stand for.

    Analyses of both the drivers and the political, social, and economic consequences of this global digital transformation abound. However, the actions of countries, companies, and citizens from Asia, Africa, Latin America, and the Middle East have hitherto been a blind spot of most analyses on the topic. They are takers and also important shapers of the digital transformation. GIGA, with its long-standing expertise in these regions and on global issues, seeks to correct the existing imbalance. Because digitalisation is a global phenomenon, it needs multilateral regulation, and it needs to take into account actors from around the world. DigiTraL will analyse the drivers and consequences of the global digital transformation comprehensively and develop ways for adequately regulating the informational space at the global level.

    There are promising initiatives in Sub-Saharan African countries, e.g. Ghana, Ruanda, Ethiopia, Kenia, South Africa, large parts of Latin America, South East Asia, and India. With its specialization in the regions and the findings of DigiTraL, the GIGA can contribute to advancing standard-setting debates. It is one of our central aims to help raise awareness of a various countries in Asia, Africa, Latin America, and the Middle East as possible partners and shapers of digitalisation, and devise ideas for successful collaboration amidst intense global competition. Such collaboration and impactfully steering the debate will no longer be possible without strongholds in and influence on the digital space.

    Research Design and Methods

    DigiTraL is envisioned with a tripod structure.
    PHASE 1:
    Digital Diplomacy and Statecraft (under the lead of Prof. Dr. Amrita Narlikar),

    PHASE 2:
    Digital Diplomacy and Statecraft (continued)
    Digital Development and Sustainability (under the lead of Prof. Dr. Jann Lay), and
    Digital Warfare and Peace (under the lead of Dr. Christian von Soest).

    Naturally, the linkages across these three work packages will be an important factor once DigiTraL is established in its entirety (Phase 2) and as the research progresses. The findings will be related back to the initial goal of delivering useful impulses for German foreign policy and our global digital future.

    DigiTraL is both an interdisciplinary and transdisciplinary project. The three legs of DigiTraL will work together as the political, social, and economic dimensions of digitalisation cannot be understood in isolation. They will be explicitly connected via the shared theme of economic statecraft.

    The term “Lab” signals collaborative work and a practice-oriented structure that enables innovative research. The work is experimental and forward-looking, as existing theories are applied to problems that we anticipate but which have not yet (fully) emerged (and vice versa). A “continuous conversation”, a constant exchange of ideas for innovative solutions among our institutions will be the aim of this project. A small working group with members of both institutions (access points are at Policy Planning Staff and at the office of the GIGA President, respectively) will fruitfully connect to existing activities (e.g., on digital diplomacy at the FFO, research, publications, and events at the GIGA).

    Policy paper | 10/2021

    Three external Risks to Democracy and how to address them

    In this policy paper, Prof. Amrita Narlikar, member of the World Economic Forum and the Global Future Council on Frontier Risks, outline three key areas of external threat that must be addressed to enable an agenda for democratic renewal.


    Digital Diplomacy: Shaping Global Transformation

    GIGA Distinguished Speaker Lecture Series Online event: 27/04/2021 Organisers: German Institute for Global and Area Studies (GIGA)

    Lecture by Ambassadors Dr Regine Grienberger and Dr Hinrich Thölken as part of the GIGA Distinguished Speaker Lecture Series. The series is curated by GIGA President Professor Amrita Narlikar.

    GIGA Focus Global | 3/2021

    Cyber Sanctions: Increasing Application of a New Instrument

    Hacker attacks on states and international organisations are increasingly answered with cyber sanctions. Dr Julia Grauvogel and Dr Christian von Soest compare the international use of the new instrument in Focus Global 04/2021 and show which steps could make the measures more effective.

    Dr. Julia Grauvogel

    Senior Research Fellow / Research Team Spokesperson

    Dr. Christian von Soest

    Lead Research Fellow / Head of Research Programme "Peace and Security"


    Sign up to receive email notifications about GIGA activities

    Social Media

    Follow us