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6

Introduction

The historic and on-going developmental challenges in the Arab region call for novel and collaborative responses by government institutions, private sector entities and civil society structures. On a global scale, technological innovations have been key enablers for more inclusive developmental responses, better governance models and, more recently, with the growth of social media usage in the Arab region, for inclusive public service delivery and policy formulation. The ever-increasing usage rates and the creative adoption of social media in the Arab region during recent pressing social, economic and political transformations have opened new horizons for multifaceted innovations by individuals and government entities. These realities have also unleashed new societal trends by different forces in Arab societies. Social media technologies today seem increasingly promising as key enablers of more inclusive service design and delivery through citizen engagement in the Arab region.
 
Over the past four years, the Arab Social Media report Series, produced by the Governance and Innovation Program, explored growth and usage trends of social media in the Arab region and provided in depth analysis on the impact of these transformations on regional levels. The series has become the key source of quantitative research on social media’s growth and usage trends in the Arab world for international organizations, academic sources and policy makers. Additionally, the Arab Social Media Report team conducted numerous exploratory qualitative surveys to enable better evaluation of regional perceptions, assess actual usage trends, policy implications and impact of social media in Arab societies. The findings of the six reports in the series revealed new transformations related to social and cultural changes, youth and women’s empowerment, entrepreneurship and employment, media consumption behaviors, education and social learning, government adoption and the role in collective action. The sixth issue of the report aims to focus on the impact of social media use on citizen engagement and public service delivery in the Arab region.
 
The level of engagement between Arab government and their citizenry is limited, whether at the stages of service design or delivery. The information between government entities and their customers in the Arab region tend to largely flow one way; from government to citizens. Even when a limited level of engagement takes place, the positive impact is usually clear on levels of satisfactions and quality of services. For example, earlier regional research by the Governance and Innovation Program has highlighted a strong co-relation between citizen engagement during public service design cycles, and levels of satisfaction with their delivery. Across the Arab region, service ratings submitted by citizens who said that their governments regularly asked them for suggestions and input into the service design process were considerably higher than those submitted by their counterparts who said that they were never asked for input[1].
 
Building on the findings of a previous research project conducted by the Governance and Innovation Program[2], in this report, we conducted a large regional survey exploring the impact of social media on citizen engagement and public service delivery and design. It was clear that attitudes towards social media use by Arab governments for public service delivery were largely positive, as were the perceptions surrounding associated benefits, including increased service accessibility, improved quality of services, inclusiveness and reduced cost. Additionally, the survey revealed a clear awareness among Arab public of related risks such as cyber security, negative participation, lack of proficiency by public entities and invalid information. However, actual usage of government social media pages by citizens to gather information on services or provide feedback proved surprisingly low - given citizens’ heightened expectations of social media’s benefits; a finding that could be directly linked to low levels of trust in government responsiveness. Government officials who do use social media platforms to engage with citizens in the Arab region, however, did report that their government entities are using it for exactly these two purposes.
In addition to the regional survey, this edition of the report continues to provide regional statistics on social media platforms, including Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn. The findings of the regional survey provided here aim to measure impact of social media users in the Arab World on public service design and delivery through citizen engagement; a topic that is closely linked with several critical policy and developmental questions in the region.
 
Social media has been growing rapidly in the Arab World since 2011 and has continued to do so over the past year. Globally, Facebook boasted 1.28 billion monthly active users (MAUs) by the end of the first quarter of 2014[3], including companies, brands, and governments, with 1.01 billion of Facebook’s monthly active users accessing it through smart mobile devices. Twitter has also seen similar strong growth globally, with 255 million monthly active users as of end of 1st quarter of 2014, with 198 million of them accessing the platform through mobile devices[4]. LinkedIn, too, has seen healthy growth in users this year. As of January, LinkedIn had over 300 million members[5]. With 39 million of them being students and college graduates.
 
With these global highlights in the background, in the Arab world, growth of social media usage has been equally strong, with the number of users increasing by 49% on Facebook, 54% on Twitter and 79% on LinkedIn since May 2013.

 
 



[1] The Arab Government Services Outlook 2014. The 2nd Government Summit. Dubai: The Governance and Innovation Program, Mohammed Bin Rashid School of Government – Available on: www.ArabSocialMediaReport.com
[2] New Frontiers for Citizens Engagement: Impact of Social Media on Government Services in the UAE (2013). Dubai: The 1st Government Summit. The Governance and Innovation Program, Dubai School of Government - Available on: www.ArabSocialMediaReport.com
 

Previous Issues

ASMR Issue 5
Jun,2013
ASMR Issue 4
Jul,2012
ASMR Issue 3
Nov,2011
ASMR Issue 2
May,2011
ASMR Issue 1
Jan,2011

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