By Moira Whelan
I love podcasts. Often, they are the thing that I can put on in the background while I do other things, and still have the chance to stay up to speed on the latest developments. As an avid consumer of news, this takes me out of the headlines and allows me to focus on the things I most care about.
Given how fast technology is changing our world, it’s critical that we stay on the cutting edge. Technology is creating new opportunities and challenges for the world. Diplomats must remain informed. This is a challenge to diplomats who are often caught in meetings, drained by bureaucracy or buried in emails. Having been recently freed from those challenges, I now have the chance to focus on the important not just the immediate.
That said, diplomats do have times they can dive into listening experiences. If you’re a digital diplomat, a long flight is probably somewhere in your future. These are my recommendations for what to download to get you through it.
On the Media: This has been my go-to podcast for years. Brooke and Bob are guiding us through the new world we’re living in with a mixture of dulcet tones and outrage. They take a tough look at media: how stories get covered, and what gets ignored. They also dig into how the digital landscape is changing the news, discussing everything from Wikileaks to terrorist recruitment with experts you need to know. Favorite episode: can’t pick but the episodes on fake news and how the media deals with leaks are especially insightful. Also loved the “Bob’s Grill” short series over the summer in which Bob Garfield called out some pretty bad actors in journalism and digital information.
World Economic Forum: Glimpse into the Future The word from Davos was that technology and governance was front and center. Blockchain, computing, AI all played a role in the annual gathering of change makers this year. Taped on the sidelines, this podcast gives you some great insights into the conversations that were taking place and how some of the biggest brains and bold-faced names are thinking about these issues. Favorite episode: ‘Technology and governments’ with the former president of Estonia. Who doesn’t love E-stonia? Also thought about mapping situations and AI in a different way…
Click: If you need to keep up to speed on the latest and greatest when it comes to technology and governance and can only fit in about 30 minutes, this is the podcast for you. Not only is everything the BBC does fantastic, podcasts are just better in a British accent. Favorite episode: February 28 discussion with Nesta’s Eddie Cooper about how democracies around the world are using digital tools to increase political participation.
Too Embarrassed to Ask by Recode: Let’s face it, if you’re in this line of work, people assume you have a crazy depth of technical knowledge that you just may not have. You try to keep up with Recode and TechCrunch but sometimes, it just gets beyond you. Now you can get smart on this stuff on a treadmill and no one needs to know. Favorite episode: big fan of the recent efforts to get me up to speed on all this Cloud business.
Meet the Ambassadors: This is a shameless personal plug, but doing this podcast series was definitely a highlight of my time serving as the Deputy Assistant Secretary for Digital Strategy at the US State Department. Less digital and more diplomacy, it’s a chance to get to know the diverse individuals who lead US embassies around the world and what their days are really like. Favorite episode: All of my pals are interesting, but you can’t beat Ted Osius’s description of the “typical American family,” and who doesn’t love a good Ruth Bader Ginsberg story?
What about you? What do you listen to? What podcasts should we make sure to listen to?
Moira Whelan is a Partner at BlueDot Strategies and former Deputy Assistant Secretary for Digital Strategy at the US State Department. She is also a member of the DDC Washington leadership team.