Majority of Arabs Support Government Use of Social Media, Report Shows

Latest Session of ‘Innovation Days’ Highlights Role of Social Media in Government – Citizen Engagement, Hosted by MBRSG and SAP

DUBAI, United Arab EmiratesA majority of Arab people support governments’ use of social media in taking citizen engagement and services delivery to the next level, according to industry experts.

The observation was made at the latest ‘Innovation Days’ event jointly hosted by the Mohammed Bin Rashid School of Government (MBRSG) and SAP, the world’s leading business software company.

Highlighting specific findings of a report published by MBRSG, panellists said more than half (55 percent) of the respondents in a survey strongly support governments’ use of social media for the design and delivery of public services.

The Arab Social Media report titled ‘Citizen Engagement and Public Services in the Arab World: The Potential of Social Media’ also indicates that the Arab world has over 82 million Facebook users and 5.8 million active Twitter users, with more than one in five people actively using social media platforms.

With the Digital Economy picking up the pace, the Arab World’s public sector is increasingly using the Internet of Things and social media feedback to better understand citizens’ sentiments, risks, and needs–enhancing delivery and relevance of services and visibility into tax spending, while reducing costs.

“As citizens in the Middle East become more used to getting real-time personal and business information via mobile devices and apps, they increasingly expect similar responsiveness from the public sector,” said Dante Ricci, Senior Director, Public Services, SAP, commenting on the outcomes of the report. “Social media can improve peoples’ lives here in the region by providing better citizen support, increased accountability and transparency, and accelerated transformational policies.”

“SAP views social media as one of the key innovation engines helping governments to transform services delivery. Social media strengthens communities, helping citizens to report issues, supporting multi-channel services delivery and allowing governments to harness the power of information to build economic and social growth,” Dante Ricci added.

The UAE population is one of the most active in the region for social media usage. The percentage of people using Facebook in the country currently exceeds 60 percent of the total population, or more than 5 million users. These numbers make the UAE the second largest country in the GCC for social media penetration, according to the 2014 UAE Social Media Outlook, jointly published by MBRSG and Dubai Press Club.

“The UAE is at the forefront of Arab countries in utilizing social media in the provision of services, whether for citizen engagement, innovation, or intergovernmental collaboration,” said His Excellency Dr. Ali Sebaa Al Marri, Executive President, Mohammed Bin Rashid School of Government. “A case in point is the success of the recent ‘UAE Brainstorming Session’ via Twitter, initiated by His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, to crowdsource ideas for addressing healthcare and education issues in the UAE. Another good example of mature social media use is Dubai’s enhanced focus on m-government services in various areas.”

Developing social media proficiency is also becoming increasingly important in the UAE employment market, with demand for social media skills expected to increase 28 percent in the next three years, according to the Oxford Economics and SAP study “Workforce 2020”. Approximately a third of the employees in the UAE expect to be proficient in social media within three years, according to the study.

“Today, information technology and the rise of social media are the two most important trends shaping the future of government, in the UAE and beyond. Governments can use social media to communicate with the citizens, listen to their thoughts and concerns, and jointly design public policy solutions. The UAE has taken the lead in the region on all three elements with visible examples,” said Dr. Yasar Jarrar, Partner Advisor at Bain & Company and Founder of the first Arabic Portal for digital government (01 Government).

“Looking to the future, the rate of change will accelerate. Technology moves exponentially. We will see a rise in instant communication, big data analytics, robotics, and the Internet-of-everything. The future of government is being shaped by the technology revolution and we are on the verge of Government 3.0,” added Dr. Yasar Jarrar.

The Innovation Days series features global and regional thought leaders tackling key topics such as the growing importance of mobility, cloud, mobile apps, big data, social media, and business analytics.

Photo Caption: A majority of Arab people support governments’ use of social media in taking citizen engagement and services delivery to the next level, according to industry experts.

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About The Mohammed Bin Rashid School of Government
The Mohammed Bin Rashid School of Government (MBRSG) is a research and teaching institution focusing on public policy in the Arab world. Established in 2005 under the patronage of HH Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President and Prime Minister of the United Arab Emirates and Ruler of Dubai, MBRSG aims to promote good governance through enhancing the region’s capacity for effective public policy. Toward this goal, the Mohammed Bin Rashid School of Government also collaborates with regional and global institutions in delivering its research and training programs. In addition, the School organizes policy forums and international conferences to facilitate the exchange of ideas and promote critical debate on public policy in the Arab world.

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