Growing social media presence in GCC pushes governments online

Governments in the GCC are realising the influence of social media and looking to drastically increase their use of it, says Fadi Salem, director and fellow at Dubai School of Government and speaker at the upcoming GCC Government Social Media Summit, which governments across the GCC will attend.

“Government attitudes to social media are changing.  They recognise that, like the Internet this will become an essential part of how they operate,” Salem said.

“Attitudes are changing and whereas at one time social media was distrusted, governments are starting to recognise its potential as a communication tool,” he added.

2011 saw the influence of social media reach new heights in the Middle East by aiding the mobilisation of citizens in the Arab Spring and being used to rally people against governments.

Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum embraced its use years ago. However, Salem said, it has taken governments a while to follow his lead.

“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 said.

The GCC Government Social Media Summit will run from 9-12 April in Dubai. Communications staff will gain a ‘crash course’ in social media and learn how they can implement social media best practice.

“The summit has come at a timely moment in the development of social media use. It is an excellent way for government staff to increase their knowledge on social media tools and techniques,” Salem said.

Emirates eGovernment and Dubai and Abu Dhabi Police are government entities that are already using social media as a medium to interact with residents.

“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,” said Ibrahim El Badawi from Emirates eGovernment.

“We launched the guidelines in early 2011 and have seen high interest from UAE government entities,” he added.

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