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SXSW 2019 | Digital Diplomacy, GovTech and Panels To Watch For

It’s that time of year! SXSW 2019 is about to kick off and we wanted to share a few digital diplomacy, govtech and related events and sessions you might want to check out if you’re in Austin.

 


 

March 8th

International Women’s Day at EU@SXSW
The European Union is pleased to partner with UN Women to be the official host of SXSW’s International Women’s Day celebration.
EU@SXSW | Palm Door on 6th
2:00PM–10:30PM

International Models for Local Communities
Hear how reciprocal exchanges with professionals from Singapore, Vietnam, Malaysia, and Indonesia have facilitated international partnerships with communities abroad, and reinforces the impact that local initiatives have on the global stage. This session is part of the Focus15 block centered around the topic Powering Local Change through Global Collaboration, with an emphasis on government management.
Hilton Austin Downtown, Room 400-402
4:15PM-4:30PM

 

March 9th

Interactive EU Experience
Check out some of the most innovative EU-funded projects tackling the challenge of disinformation and supporting the discovery of new European musical artists. See whether you can spot deep fake images and videos at our disinformation wall and listen to some of the best European music on offer under our sound domes!
EU@SXSW | Palm Door on 6th
11:00AM-5:00PM

Tech and Populism at a Crossroads: A New Era?
The balkanization and proliferation of information and political views is driven by constant innovation and evolution of digital communications and technology platforms, including social media. With populism at a crossroads, how will technology disrupt the coming years of political dialogue, and how should policymakers respond?
Hilton Austin Downtown, Salon B
11:00AM-Noon

Combatting Disinformation & the European Elections
Whilst the problem of disinformation is anything but new, the internet, and social media in particular, has shifted its spread into high gear. Following the elections on both sides of the Atlantic, disinformation has been widely debated both in the US and in Europe. Our panelists will discuss the challenges the EU is facing in the run-up to the May 2019 European elections and the efforts of its institutions to address them.
EU@SXSW | Palm Door on 6th
Noon-1:00PM

 

March 10th

The Dark Side of Tech: Surveillance and Propaganda
For repressive regimes, frontier technology can mean new ways to gain and maintain power. Will big data and artificial intelligence liberate or surveil? Join the Human Rights Foundation, Uighur linguist and police state survivor Tahir Imin, Buzzfeed News tech editor Megha Rajagopalan, and foreign affairs reporter Melissa Chan for a conversation on how super apps, facial recognition, movement analysis, DNA mapping, fake video, and other cutting-edge technologies are used to control, surveil, and promote state propaganda in China – and what that means for the rest of the world.
The LINE, Topaz Ballroom 1-2-3
12:30PM-1:30PM

EU-US Relations: The State of Play
Sharing values and interests, the EU and the US have multiple political and economic ties and have remained close allies for almost seventy years. This transatlantic partnership – arguably the most important bilateral relationship in the world – has had its highs and lows. What is the current state of play? How important is the successful cooperation of the two superpowers for them and for the global order?
EU@SXSW | Palm Door on 6th
1:00PM-2:00PM

Input Local. Output Global. City Innovation Mayoral Meet Up
Local ingenuity leads to global progress. Innovation in the government and civic sector continues to grow, local leaders still face many challenges especially in the midst of round-the-clock responsibilities within their communities. Meet America’s most innovative mayors who are using technology and innovation to meet their biggest challenges. Network, share, and engage with local leaders changing the face of cities.
Fairmont Poppy, Floor 4
3:30PM-4:30PM

Tech4Good – presented by France
Conversation about the French Tech4Good: France and Austin as iconic ecosystems of creativity and innovation for social impact. Post-panel discussion will feature a special invitation-only networking cocktail and demos from French start-ups. At 8:00pm Paris-based indie rock band Stuck in the Sound performs live on stage.
EU@SXSW | Palm Door on 6th
5:00PM-10:30PM

Does Government Matter in a Digital World?
The McKinsey Global Institute estimates that 543 terabits of data are flowing across borders every second. If knowledge is power and data is now the most valuable commodity on the planet, who has it? Who uses it? Who controls it? How? And where does government fit into this datascape? Do governments have any power or purpose left, or, like one of those old Western towns that are only facades, are we living in a facsimile of civic governance?
Hilton Austin Downtown, Room 400-402
5:00PM-5:15PM

 

March 11th

Breaking Free from Global Disinformation
Disinformation, amplification and intimidation are widely used to drown out reliable journalistic reporting. Predators of press freedoms are building a tracked and censored internet, while blocking external content. Democracies are undermined while despotic regimes develop intricate propaganda machines that silence dissent, locally and globally. Solutions are badly needed to strengthen journalism & the integrity of public debate. That’s why Reporters Without Borders has launched a global appeal to mobilize governments and those committed to defending a free and pluralistic public space, essential for democracy. Seventy years after the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, a Commission of 25 influencers from 18 countries has published an International Declaration on Information and Democracy to establish basic principles for information in the digital age – “a common good of humankind.”
The LINE, Onyx Ballroom 1
2:00PM-3:00PM

Bad Guys Attacking Elections: It’s Not Just the US
We know bad guys are continuing to use social media tools to exploit divisions and undermine elections in the US. We have seen their handiwork in France, Mexico, Germany and other places. Between now and SXSW we will see elections not just in the United States but in Brazil and Georgia where on-line manipulation of opinion is already a big problem. When we meet, elections in Indonesia, India and Europe will be just around the corner. Panelists will talk about where things stand, explore what’s working and what’s not from the perspective of the world’s largest social media platform, the media, and a think tank working to create a network of experts to combat the issue. We’ll look at ways to close the information gap among government, tech, and media on these collective challenges.
Hilton Austin Downtown, Salon A
12:30PM-1:30PM

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#SXSW18: Digital Diplomacy IRL

What is South by Southwest and why should the world care? Nearly 70,000 paid attendees flock to Austin to listen and learn from thousands of speakers. There’s a trade show and plenty of brand-hosted parties in and around Austin. All in, there’s more than 300,000 people interacting directly with SXSW activities. Among them, thought leadership entrepreneurs, whose minds are open and who are on the prowl for the next best thing in the digital space, in journalism and government or in music and comedy. You go to SXSW to see something new, or something new to you, and countries are taking advantage of that opportunity.

Three days into SXSW, the organizers announced this year’s theme: “Globally Connected”

The theme is no surprise. On and off the stage, and throughout Austin, SXSW has moved in a few short years from being a local music festival to a global event celebrating arts, innovation and ideas.

EU at SXSW

I was honored to participate in South By Southwest (known as SXSW) as part of a great line up presented by the European Union. Over a period of 3 days they held event after event on two stages touching all EU member countries and addressing a myriad of issues and of course, having fun. You can check out their line up here. And of course you can check out our panel. #EUatSXSW was a good representation of the opportunity countries see in SXSW: new and innovative people from around the world eager to learn.

Throughout my time at SXSW, I had the opportunity to check out the scene, but kept a special eye out for international presence at SXSW. Having served in the State Department at the Deputy Assistant Secretary of Public Affairs for Digital Strategy, I had countless conversations convincing governments to start paying attention to how digital tools can transform their relationships with their own people and the world. Those conversations from long ago seem to have worked, and digital was just the beginning.

These are my take aways:

Brazil Went Big. If you went to SouthBy, you heard from Brazil. Their hashtag graced the bag given to every participant. They had a room in one of the main hotels and were featured prominently on the trade show floor. Everywhere you turned: Brazil.

Europe was front and center. In addition to the EU house, many European countries were represented. One of the earliest and stalwart participants in SXSW is the British Music Embassy who showed up again for the 11th year. But other countries like Poland were new this year and brought some cool businesses that are scalable and applicable to US markets.

Every Continent Was Represented. Sadly, I didn’t make it over to Africa House, and it looks like I missed out. Not only did they have great (women) entrepreneurs on stage, but they made it their mission to represent Wakanda at SXSW.

Otherwise, my passport was stamped on every continent, all within a few short blocks. I’m thankful for that because there were many cocktails to sample. SXSW is known for a good cocktail and generally each country stuck to their specialty. But in that spirit, the prize goes to Peru House with some truly fantastic pisco drinks at the bar.

Some Regions Were…Quiet. One of the most striking things about SXSW is that you’d sit down to have BBQ anywhere in town and hear multiple languages coming from every table. But where some countries went big, some regions were noticeably quiet. In particular, the Middle East was certainly represented on stage but the average SXSW participant would not have had the opportunity to run into something new and innovative from the region. It’s a shame because there are so many vibrant spots.

Two countries were conspicuously absent. As a former diplomat and someone who helped make sure President Obama blew the minds of SXSW in 2016, the lack of the US government at SXSW was disappointing. The U.S. Department of Transportation had a booth to address innovation in driverless cars, and several US officials participated on panels. What was missing were the approachable booths of NASA and the innovators hosted by USAID. In the same vein, I really expected India to be front and center. Perhaps India didn’t need to go to SXSW because everyone is coming to them.

Duty called, and I didn’t have time to stay at SXSW to see everything, hear every lecture or band, or see every activation. As a result, I know I need to go back.

So tell me…what did I miss at #SXSW2018? Which country did it best in your opinion?

 


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 Digital Diplomacy Coalition Washington team.

This post originally appeared on Medium.

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