GCC govts 'turning to social media'
Dubai, February 6, 2012
The governments in the GCC region are preparing for increasing use of social media to interact with its citizens, spread messages and gain feedback on their policies, according to an expert.
'In 2011, the world saw how social media had changed the world we live in: the instant dissemination of news, giving a voice to the masses and, in the Middle East, aiding the mobilisation of citizens in the Arab Spring,' remarked Fadi Salem, director and fellow at Dubai School of Government.
'While here we saw social media being used to rally people against governments, in 2012 governments in the Arab world will be embracing social media as a means of communicating with the people,' Salem added.
“Government attitudes to social media are changing. They recognise that, like the Internet this will become an essential part of how they operate. Attitudes are changing and whereas at one time social media was distrusted, Governments are starting to recognize its potential as a communication tool,” he noted.
'Driving this change is a social media-savvy GCC population. The adoption of social media is at its highest ever rate,' he added.
According to him, the UAE has the highest penetration of Facebook in the region at 30 per cent.
'Sheikh Mohammed led the way with social media, embracing its use years ago. However, it has taken governments a while to follow his lead,' Salem said.
'Government departments are very concerned with privacy and cautious of new technologies so it will take time for widespread use but a change in attitudes is now coming,' he added.
Ibrahim El Badawi, from Emirates eGovernment, has been expecting this shift for a while now.
'In 2010 we started collaborating with government entities to produce policy guidelines on how to use social media effectively to maximise the value delivered to the public and manage potential risks and concerns attached with using social media,' he remarked.
'We launched the guidelines in early 2011 and have seen high interest from UAE government entities,' Badawi added.
Social media, he said, was ideal for governments who are providing services to residents and use the medium to interact with end users.
'Emirates eGovernment, and Dubai and Abu Dhabi Police are examples of government entities that are currently doing this,' he said.
Emirates eGovernment has a Facebook and Twitter page, where users can view their current activities, connect to their portal and communicate with them. Facebook and Twitter are engrained in their communication strategy.
To support this shift in attitudes towards social media, governments across the GCC will be attending the GCC Government Social Media Summit to be held from April 9 to 12 in Dubai.-TradeArabia News Service