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23 July 2024

Impact of social media in the Arab world

By Staff

The new “Arab Social Media Outlook 2014” report sheds light on social media trends in the Arab region during 2013 with aims to better understand the increasing impact of social media on the lives of Arab citizens during the current year.

The report, produced by the Governance and Innovation Programme at the Mohammed Bin Rashid School of Government (MBRSG) in partnership with the Dubai Press Club (DPC), makes use of numerous studies conducted by the programme in the Arab Social Media Report series to analyse the impact of social media on different aspects including media, socio-economic and political trends for individuals living in the Arab world.

The release of the report coincides with the launch of the 13th edition of the Arab Media Forum (AMF) under the theme “The Future of Media Starts Today”.

The report examines the reality of social media in the Arab world during 2013, trends of utilising social media as a news source in addition to its impact on education throughout the Arab world.

Dr. Ali Sebaa Al Marri, the Executive President of MBRSG, said: “The report presents valuable insight on social media platforms in the region and its role in the formulation of enhanced policies, supporting good governance and boosting social integration in the Arab world.”

“In an age where media plays a central role in shaping our societies, the MBRSG’s Governance and Innovation Programme seeks to gauge and analyse the role of social media platforms on knowledge and innovation through supporting active engagement between governments and people. This partnership reflects the importance of scientific research in formulating sound public policies on one hand and putting solid data to practical use on the other,” added Al Marri.

Mona Al Marri, President of the Dubai Press Club and Chairperson of AMF's Organising Committee, said: “The report takes into perspective the wide spread of social media platforms and its relation to the media scene in the Arab world. It also sheds light on new communication trends and poses a challenge to media professionals to constantly update their news-gathering procedures, especially in a time where the public have the tools to disseminate news info quickly.”

The “Arab Social Media Outlook 2014” focuses on the demographics of social media platforms in the Arab world. For example, Egypt topped the Arab countries with the largest Facebook user base in 2013 whereas the UAE recorded the highest penetration to population ratio of 54 per cent, an increase of one million users during 2013.

Fadi Salem, Director of the Governance and Innovation Program at the MBRSG and co-author of the report, said: “Convergence between social media platforms and conventional media has become an undisputed fact. The report shows that users of social media platforms across the Arab world reached 71 million individuals by the end of 2013 out of a total of 135 million individuals using the Internet.”

“Social media is actively competing with conventional media as a primary source of news for millions of Arabs. Nearly 30 per cent of individuals participating in the survey consider social media to be the primary source of news, which is similar to the percentage of individuals considering conventional media outlets as the main source of news,” added Salem.

For her part, Muna Busamra, Director of the Dubai Press Club and the Arab Media Forum, said that the report falls in line with DPC’s strategy to present credible research information relevant to the field of media in the Arab world.

According to Busamra, the “Arab Social Media Outlook 2014” is an important tool to gauge trends in social media and its effect on professional media institutions in the region just as the Arab Media Outlook reports released earlier by DPC.

In addition to trends and demographic analytics in the report, MBRSG’s Governance and Innovation Programme conducted a regional research survey with close to 4,000 participants focusing on the quality of education in the region; the use of technology and social media in classes; and the impact of interrupting education due to conflicts and political instability. The survey also collected views on education reform.

Racha Mourtada, Research Associate with the Governance and Innovation Programme at MBRSG and co-author of the report, underlined that education nowadays depends on social media platforms to a considerable extent given the large number of users. This has led to social media platforms becoming an essential driver for innovation and paved the way for the emergence of “social learning” and “open online courses” as creative means of the exchange of knowledge. Over 75 per cent of participant post-graduates and professionals expressed willingness to share their knowledge with students through social media platforms.

Further, the report reveals that 10 per cent of the respondents had children in schools that utilise social media platforms as education tools in classes. Teachers also pointed out the importance of using the Internet and social media platforms as innovative means to help engage students in projects and participation, thus supplementing teaching methods.

Fifty-five per cent of teachers use social media platforms as a resource for education, whereas 56 per cent of parents expressed concern over the distraction that social media platforms create. Eighty-four per cent of the respondents saw that governments should cooperate with the private sector to ensure full access to the Internet in classrooms. Around 77 per cent said that social media platforms should be included in education reform strategies.

The report points to the prospect of using social media platforms as channels of exchanging knowledge, highlighting the positive effect of engaging parents and students in education through facilitating distance education and cutting the time and cost of the learning process.

Respondents also agreed that social media ought to be included in education reform strategies through integrating social media platforms in education and as a facilitator in the policy-making process related to education. Respondents further agreed that providing full access to the Internet and technology by governments and the private sector is a key aspect of education reform.