Tech diplomacy: Denmark to appoint world’s first ‘digital ambassador’
“These companies have become a kind of new nations, and we need to address this [tendency],” Foreign Minister Anders Samuelsen said in a Friday interview with Politiken newspaper right after a conference on the future of Denmark’s Foreign Service.
Samuelsen said the initiative stems from the growing importance of the tech sector to the Danish economy, stressing that Google, Apple, IBM, and Microsoft “are companies that influence Denmark as much as other nations do: it’s a new reality.” The new official will be charged with establishing and grooming Denmark’s relations with the tech giants.
The new appointment will be a tech liaison who reflects a diplomatic power shift between established nations and privately-owned conglomerates. For instance, the minister mentioned a recent report in the Financial Times showing the market values of Apple and Google are so large that the corporations could take chairs at the international G20 forum, the panel of the world’s 20 largest economies, if they were countries.
The minister noted, however, that the novel position will not lead Denmark to turn away from more traditional forms of diplomatic relations.
“We must, of course, maintain the old ways of building relations with other countries. Yet we also need to have close relationships with some of the companies that affect us,” the foreign minister stated.
The purpose of the appointment is, on the one hand, to be on the forefront of technological development and the political and ethical issues that come with it, and on the other, to make Denmark more attractive for investment. Denmark has already had some success in the latter sphere, as both Facebook and Apple have revealed plans to build data centers in Denmark. Just last week, Facebook said it will place a new data center in Odense, while Apple disclosed a similar intention back in 2015. The new centers will create hundreds of jobs during the construction phase and bring in investment amounting to hundreds of millions of dollars, according to a Danish news site Fyens.dk.
“Although only one percent of all companies in Denmark are foreign, they create some 20 percent of all Danish jobs. For this reason, the Danish government works continuously to attract more foreign investments to Denmark,” Samuelsen said upon signing the deal with Facebook last week.