The Foreign Minister’s decision to launch the FM Direct app – a platform for officials of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MoFA) from across the world to engage in the exchange of ideas – is an interesting idea. Initial reports identify the application as a sort of forum, where employees of the ministry can participate in a dialogue and suggest improvements to how the foreign ministry handles its affairs. It is unclear what is included in the scope of the app so far, but if officers can provide recommendations to the Minister on how to handle specific diplomatic engagements or improve processes of MoFA on foreign missions, this is a job well done.

However, the biggest problem with mobile applications that are targeted towards one goal is that they tend to die out in popularity over time. There is a very real threat of this app initially finding traction but later getting completely forgotten. To avoid this, the only thing that MoFA can do is to make sure that those who are posting suggestions feel like they are being heard. Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi can directly participate, or there can be a system where ideas are given precedence as a result of the popularity they have on the app; a sort of upvote system, perhaps.

This first step is positive; but in order for the best ideas to come through, the culture within the bureaucracy will have to become one where innovation is encouraged, and no one is afraid to speak their mind. Since the primary objective here is to make MoFA more inclusive and allow for an exchange of thoughts to enhance the processes in the ministry, consistent effort will be needed. This must go beyond the mobile app as well – to engage all officials in productive and meaningful discussion.