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Foreign Affairs Committee launches inquiry into tech and the future of UK foreign policy

Committee looks for evidence on how the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office can respond to opportunities and challenges brought by new and emerging technologies

The Foreign Affairs Committee is launching an inquiry into technology and the future of the UK’s foreign policy.

The inquiry aims to inform the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO) on how it should lead on a strategy aiming to respond to the opportunities and challenges presented by new and emerging technologies.

The committee believes these technologies are altering the nature of international relations and the conduct of diplomacy, and that the growing influence of private technology companies and the backing they get from some nations increases the number of actors to engage with.

Foreign Affairs Committee chair Tom Tugendhat said the emergence of new technologies and “the power wielded by tech firms changes the role of the UK as a global rule-setter and the work of our diplomatic networks”.

This inquiry will explore how the FCDO can innovate in its approach to diplomacy on a world stage that is being rapidly reshaped. New technologies will set new standards and shape all our lives. The UK needs to identify shared goals and build alliances to project its influence and promote a globally coherent approach to their development and use,” he said.  

“We’ve seen how political views from the west coast of the US are shaping the communications of political leaders around the world. We need to think about the impact that has on the UK and our influence at home and abroad.

“The old rules of trade and diplomatic engagement were written on the basis of British norms, putting the UK at the heart of the international system. These developments present significant challenges to the UK’s security, prosperity, diplomatic relations and global influence, and the FCDO must adapt quickly and accordingly.”

The inquiry is looking for written evidence on a range of topics, including what technologies are shifting power and how the FDCO can engage with private technology companies to promote responsible use of data and new technologies.

It also wants to know if digital currencies will force a change in the balance of power and what opportunities and challenges technologies such as cryptocurrencies and distributed ledger technologies can provide, and how the office can harness those.

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