The 6th Arab Social Media Report, on Citizen Engagement for Better Government Services, is out now




Under the title ‘Citizen
Engagement and Public Services in the Arab World: The Potential of Social Media
’,
the sixth edition of the Arab Social Media Report series was launched today by
the Governance and Innovation Program at the Mohammed Bin Rashid School of
Government. The report shows that the public sector in a majority of Arab
countries continues to suffer from mounting deficiencies in terms of quality,
efficiency and accessibility of government service despite the continued growth
of social media penetration in the Arab region and its increasing potential for
governments to engage citizen on enhancing public services.

In addition to analyzing
patterns, demographic breakdowns and usage trends of key social media platforms
across the Arab world, the report studies the influence of social media on reforming
and reshaping the delivery of government services, based on a regional survey
conducted among several thousand participants across the Arab world.

The report revealed that Arabs
have positive attitudes towards getting engaged by government through social
media for public service design and delivery. As part of the findings of the
survey, 55% of the respondents said they strongly support the government’s use
of social media for the design and delivery of public services. Respondents also
agreed that social media facilitates better accessibility to government
entities and public sector officials.

However, according to the
report findings, social media is still used in the Arab region as a one-way
information source for the majority of those who utilize it to interact with
government. Only 2% of the respondents reported visiting official social media
pages or using their personal social media accounts for sourcing information on
public services. Of the 63% who do utilize government social media pages, 74% only
use it to access information on government services and entities, while giving
feedback, sending complaints or new ideas to government ranked lower.

Fadi Salem, Director of the
Governance and Innovation Program at the Mohammed Bin Rashid School of
Government, and co-author of the report, said: “We are still in a beginning of
an era where technology is empowering the public and allowing for collaboration
opportunities between government and society. With around 82 million Facebook users
and 5.8 million active Twitter users in the Arab world today, more than 22
percent of Arabs are actively using social media platforms in innovative ways.”

Additionally, the report
findings suggests that increased connectivity, coupled with the low levels of
quality and accessibility of public services in the region prompted many civil
society structures to utilize social media tools to fill gaps in service delivery.
“Social media is providing a growing space for the ‘3rd sector’ in many Arab
countries. Around 42% of respondents in our research said that civic organizations
in their country were using social media to deliver some services that the government
was not providing. This not only highlights the disruptive nature of new
informational flows facilitated by social media tools, but also the relatively
low levels of trust between government and society”, Salem added.

Growth of social media usage
in Arab world has been consistently strong, with the number of users in 2014
increasing by a whopping 49% on Facebook, 54% on Twitter and 79% on LinkedIn since
May 2013. Analyzing demographics, the report reveals that the UAE has the
highest rate among Arab countries in terms of LinkedIn penetration at 22.4%,
while Qatar climbed to first place in Facebook penetration with 61% of its
population using Facebook, followed closely by the UAE with 58%. On Twitter, Saudi
Arabia has 40% of all Arab active users, however, Kuwait enjoys the highest
penetration rate with 11.4% of its population active on the microblogging
platform.

Racha Mourtada, Research
Associate with the Governance and Innovation Program and co-author of the
report, said: “Our research shows that social media in the Arab world is
dominated by young men under 30, with only 1 in 3 social media users in the
region being a woman. Given this young tech-savvy population many governments
in the Arab world have come to realize the importance of proactively engaging citizens
in finding innovative ways of delivering public services that are inclusive,
citizen-centric, responsive and cost-effective. Respondents in our survey agreed
that engagement through social media for service delivery presented benefits
such as increased service accessibility, improved quality of services,
inclusiveness and reduced costs. They also indicated a need to increase
government responsiveness to citizens’ feedback on social media platforms, in
order to encourage citizen trust in and utilization of these channels.”

The full report can be accessed from: http://www.mbrsg.ae/HOME/PUBLICATIONS/Research-Report-Research-Paper-White-Paper/Citizen-Engagement-and-Public-Services-in-the-Arab.aspx