Social media expert urges government to interact with citizens
A social media expert claims decision makers can deliver messages and form policies by engaging their citizens through the online networks.
Elizabeth Linder, government and political specialist at facebook, urged governments, especially in the Middle East to utilise social media.
Linder, who was attending the GCC Government Social Media Summit in Dubai yesterday, said: “Governments could lead the way by using social media to actively promote the values they strongly believe in.
“They should also actively engage with citizens, listen to their input and do something tangible based on those interactions. That way they can influence positive change and create loyalty from their citizens.”
Linder said the success of organising the uprisings across the Arab world last year was partly due to the intelligent use of the social media by protesters to influence demonstrations.
This was allowed to happen as the affected regimes had relied on traditional and less interactive channels of communication such as television and newspapers to dictate their terms.
“Governments need to seize every available channel of communication to permeate the consciousness of the public so that their policies are well received,” Linder said.
Dr Saeed Al Dhaheri, adviser to the UAE minister of foreign affairs, said that social media is gradually becoming the “virtual majlis” with more public penetration.
“Traditionally, people used to sit at a ruler’s majlis to air out their concerns and this is what the leaders of the UAE are doing by engaging the public through social media,” said Al Dhaheri.
“This has created togetherness among people and a common approach towards things that threaten their values and beliefs.”
According to the recent Arab Social Media report, facebook users in the Arab world have tripled in just two years - from 16 million to 45 million - while about six million people tweet every. However, 70 per cent of the region’s social media users are youths aged 15 to 29, compelling experts to call for ways to reach out to other age groups.
Linder added that social media firms cannot influence government policies aimed at restricting the flow of content on sites. She said: “Our main concern is to ensure that users follow our terms and regulations. Each government, based on the circumstances of its country, can impose its own regulations.
“Each government has a duty to protect the values and interest of its citizens. If a government restricts the use of social media in its country, based on its sense of responsibility, we have no obligation to influence their policies.”
The social media summit, held at the The Ritz Carlton DIFC, has brought together leaders and experts across federal, local and semi-government sectors, with the aim to look at how governments can use social media for effective internal and citizen communications.
The summit ends today.