Alec Ross arrives today at the State Department, armed with a whole new set of diplomatic tools including Facebook, texting and YouTube.
Ross is Secretary Hillary Rodham Clinton's senior advisor on innovation, a new role created for the 36-year-old nonprofit leader who quickly rose within the Obama campaign, helping to craft tech policy under top technology advisor Julius Genachowski.
His new job will blend technology with diplomacy in an attempt to help solve some of the globe's most vexing problems on health care, poverty, human rights and ethnic conflicts. And it's emblematic of the expansive approach the administration has taken to the role of technology in advancing its domestic and global agendas.
"Secretary Clinton believes technology is a powerful tool to address the priorities of the State Department, including promoting human rights and vibrant democracies, fostering development and enhancing the impact of smart power," said State Department spokesman Robert Wood. "Alec's track record of successfully using technology for development initiatives around the world made him an ideal candidate for this job."
Projects could include the use of cell phone text messaging as a way to reach isolated communities to warn people of natural disaster or remind patients to take medication. Social networking sites could bring together youth in warring tribes to communicate and organize cultural exchanges. Software could be used to help insure aid gets delivered by creating supply chain systems.
Ross will work directly for the chief of staff, Cheryl Mills, according to Wood.
"I don't believe tech is an end into itself to solve problems," said Ross, "but it can be a critical part of the solution."