Tuesday 24 May 2022 | 12:24 | SYDNEY
Tuesday 24 May 2022 | 12:24 | SYDNEY

Ediplomacy: DFAT takes smart steps


Fergus Hanson


29 November 2011 13:31

Ediplomacy is going to have a big impact on foreign ministries, but one of the areas it will affect most is consular operations. So it was great to see the launch last week of Smartraveller III, which began the roll-out of a few ediplomacy innovations.

DFAT runs a brilliant consular service for which it receives very little credit. But as the Lowy Institute has reported several times, this VIP service is sapping shrinking foreign ministry resources. This makes it ripe for harnessing some ediplomacy efficiency gains.

The big gain from the launch is a saner registration process. As anyone who previously tried to register with Smartraveller knows, the process was anything but smart. 'Laborious' and 'onerous' were better descriptors and it was no wonder only a fraction of departing Australians made the effort. The new process is easy and manageable for a time-pressed person.

The new website is also impressive (although it's a shame the same effort isn't applied to the federal government's worst websites: those of DFAT's overseas posts). There is also a new mobile-optimised version of the website and an app is in the pipeline. Another good initiative is a partnership with travel agents.

Ediplomacy is ushering in a new era in consular affairs that will likely mean an even more ambitious goal: to create direct communications channels with all citizens traveling overseas. There is clearly a lot more in store, but the new efforts are a pretty good start.

Photo courtesy of the Minister for Foreign Affairs.