Secretary of State Hillary Clinton met last week with a handful of high-tech’s titans to talk about how the Internet and gadgets can intersect with the nation’s foreign diplomacy needs.

But unlike the many from the Obama administration and federal agencies who descended on Las Vegas for the Consumer Electronics Show, Clinton’s meeting with Google CEO Eric Schmidt, Twitter Co-Founder Jack Dorsey, Microsoft Chief Research and Strategy Officer Craig Mundie and others was over a quiet and exclusive dinner in the State Department’s gilded diplomatic eighth floor dining room that is steeped in American history.

The topic: how technology can be used to meet the nation’s foreign diplomacy goals. The agency sees that blending as integral to its strategic vision as the nation’s representatives to the rest of the world. On Jan. 21, Clinton is scheduled to give a policy speech on “Internet freedom” and a push against censorship on the Web in nations like Iran and Cuba. She is also influencing the global diplomatic picture as told in my colleague Mary Jordon’s piece on the “Hillary effect” in today’s paper.

The State Department’s senior advisor on innovation, Alec Ross, is charged with a goal to use text messaging, Web 2.0 social applications, e-mail and mobile technology to that end. He’s used such technology in programs to help reduce violence against women in the Congo and to remind patients to take HIV medication in sub-Saharan Africa. Last week, the agency said in a blog that it plans to promote Twitter as a “worldwide platform in which people can discuss the meaning of democracy and exchange ideas from diverse perspectives.”

Ross organized the dinner that brought together the executives and nonprofit leaders he has mixed with over the course of the Obama presidential campaign and transition and in his time leading tech nonprofit OneEconomy.

Many of them came from the nascent Web 2.0 world such as Shervin Pishevar, CEO of mobile game company Social Gaming Network; Jason Liebman, CEO of online video aggregator Howcast; and James Eberhard, founder of mobile donations company Mobile Accord.

Clinton joked during the dinner that it was the youngest dinner she had hosted at the State Department, according to Ross.

“Technology leaders are choosing to engage in America’s diplomacy because they care about America and because they know that technology is the platform for engagement in the 21st century,” Ross said in an e-mail to Post Tech.

The exclusive and quiet event stood in stark contrast to high-tech’s other big meet, the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas where thousands mingled to frenetic lights and music at the industry’s annual products show and tell.

Many of Washington’s policymakers came to the show this year – including White House Chief Technology Officer Aneesh Chopra and Federal Communications Commission Chairman Julius Genachowski. The presence of Washington officials at CES underscored the growing ties between the federal government and the high-tech industry with the Obama Administration’s push to expand the Internet into all homes. Cisco, IBM, Google and Intel have closely advised the White House economic advisors on the role of technology in furthering education and energy reform.

In Washington, Clinton and her guests talked about how some the technologies that were on display in Las Vegas could come to bear in the nation’s goals for economic development abroad and the resolution of conflict. The State Department recently created an insurance program for wireless service providers in Afghanistan to reduce the risk of deploying service there. This spring, Ross is will launch a program in Mexico that uses cell phone texts and other mobile services to inform law enforcement officials of drug trafficking activity and other crimes.

Other guests included Andrew Rasiejj founder of nonprofit Personal Democracy Forum; Luis Ubinas, president of the Ford Foundation; Tiffany Shlain, founder of the Webbys Awards; and Sue Bostrom, Cisco’s chief globalization officer.

Photo Credit: Los Angeles Times