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Three Reasons Why the Social Media Guidelines for UAE Government are Vital

Few days ago, the United Arab Emirates (UAE) eGovernment has officially released a set of guidelines documents; one of them was Guidelines for Social Media Usage in UAE Government Entities.

The document offers a set of guidelines for the government entities in UAE to manage their presence on social media websites and take actions on the social media related issues. More specifically, the document tackles the following topics: access to social media sites from within government offices, account management, employee conduct, content management, citizen code of conduct, security, privacy and some other legal issues.

I’ll get back to discuss some of these guidelines in another post, but I find it important to highlight three reasons make the release of these guidelines important and timely:

Reason #1: Citizens and residents of UAE are very active on social media:

A very recent report by Dubai School of Government (DSG) on the status of social media in the Arab world unveiled some interesting statistics about the penetration of social media in UAE. According to the report, UAE is among the top ten countries in the world in Facebook usage with 45% of its population has accounts on the most popular social networking site. Although its population is relatively small when compared to many other Arab countries, the number of Facebook users in UAE represents 10% of the total number of users in the entire Arab world. Another interesting fact unveiled by the report is that the UAE has the most balanced age structure among its Facebook users, young users (between the ages of 15 and 29) represent 55% while this percentage goes up to 75% among the entire Facebook users in the Arab world. (If you are a Twitter lover, you can try to search for hash tags like #UAE or #Dubai)

In such a society with high presence on social media, government entities can’t afford to ignore social media and insist to continue communicating with the public through traditional channels only, such an approach could lead us to a “government-society social media divide” which will negatively affect any government plans to move towards more citizen-centered services and hinder its progress towards successful adoption of Government 2.0 concepts and practices.

Reason #2: Government employees in UAE believe in the power of social media

A national survey of UAE government employees in federal and local government entities was conducted by DSG and published in 2010, the survey aimed at exploring the factors that drive the shift of these entities from “silos” and “competition” governance modes to the “collaborative” mode. According to the study, the majority of surveyed government employees considered social networking as one of the top technologies that can enable this shift. What I find most interesting about this is that it shows the enthusiasm for social networking and social media within the government entities at the personal level not the organizational level. This could be considered an asset by itself keeping in mind that communication over social media is personal and horizontal by nature; the traditional vertical hierarchical based communication methods of government wouldn’t provide much help. In fact, I consider these old methods with their legacy practices as barriers.

Reason #3: The social media presence of government entities need to be expanded and enriched:

Although the social media guidelines document was released few days ago, many government entities in UAE have started their presence on social media few years ago; However and based on my own quick research, the number of these government entities is still below what is needed. In addition, most of these entities need to go beyond establishing accounts on Facebook and Twitter.

In a nutshell, we can say that the social media guidelines can offer great help to government entities in the UAE to leverage the enthusiasm and skills of its employees to bridge the gap in their social media presence in order to tackle the opportunity of having nearly half you UAE population on Facebook.

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Jeff Ribeira

Great document and some really interesting supporting stats! Social media in the ME was huge when I was living there a couple of years ago, I can’t imagine the effect it has on the region now. Actually, I can imagine and it’s largely thanks to social media and the many active users in that part of the world! Very interested in this topic so I’m looking forward to hearing more!

Ibrahim Elbadawi

Thanks Jeff for your comment and nice words, and yes the effect is really huge. What’s interesting is that because of the proven political impact of social media in the region, now decision makers are more ready to accept it as a fact and start using it as a tool for interacting with public… instead of just considering it as “kids toy” as we used to hear only a year ago!