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The era of the digital ambassador

Denmark appoints an ambassador who deals with tech companies. Does that make them countries?

Together, Google and Apple would make it into the G2O, based on their revenue.

That's if they were actually a country, which they're not, of course.

But it's fair to say they wield enough clout and influence the lives of so many citizens they have more impact in the world than most countries do.

So is it time to start treating them with formal diplomatic relations?

Denmark thinks so.

That's why it has announced the creation of a so-called "digital ambassador," who will establish formal relations with tech companies, especially those in Silicon Valley.

Anders Samuelsen, Denmark's foreign minister, says a proper ambassador will help ensure that the needs of Danish citizens will be met when it comes to privacy and security issues - as well as making it easier to attract tech companies to set up shop in Denmark. 
Danish foreign minister Anders Samuelson. (Finn Arup Nielson/Creative Commons)

Apple and Facebook have already committed to building giant data centres there, he says.

But the ambassadorship is more than about simply attracting tech company money.

He says that working closely with the companies will help stop the operation of terrorist groups - at least to the extent that they use technology - within Denmark's borders.

While she acknowledges that there is certainly opportunity in a post-Brexit world for other European countries to lure the tech industry away from London, where it's currently based, Angela Palmer says the idea of actually establishing diplomatic relations with a non-nation is fraught with problems.

She's the editor for digitization, innovation and technology at The Governance Post, base in Berlin, and recently wrote an essay examining the idea of so-called digital ambassadors. 
Angela Palmer. (Hertie School of Governance)

She points out that diplomatic relations have a very specific role among nations, such as managing negotiations during wars, that aren't appropriate for dealing with the tech sector, or any other private interest - and that raising a private company to the level of a nation-state is potentially dangerous.

She does say, however, the move is a very good way to indicate a desire for a strong business relationship with tech companies.

"What they're really saying is, Denmark is open for business."

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