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eGovernment Forschung seit 2001 | eGovernment Research since 2001

The Arab Social Media Report series, produced by the Governance and Innovation Program (Mohammed Bin Rashid –School of Government) aims to informal better understanding of the impact of social media growth on development and governance in the Arab region by exploring the following key questions: What are the penetration trends of social networking services in the Arab region? What is the growth rate, and what is the demographic and gender breakdown? What factors affect the adoption of these platforms in different Arab countries (e.g., income, youth population, digital access, Internet freedom, etc.)? What is the impact of these phenomena on citizen engagement and social inclusion? What is the impact of the new social dynamics influenced by social media on innovation and entrepreneurship in Arab societies?

Ultimately, the findings of the series shed light on the role social media is playing in the transformations taking place in Arab societies.

Around the world, trust in government is at an all-time low. Limited accountability, lack of transparency and low quality of public services are coupled with unprecedented levels of access to information, informed citizens, empowered civil society structures and rising citizens expectations; all just a few of the reasons why the public sector globally is in the crosshair.

The Arab World is burdened by varying degrees of these challenges on regional and country levels.

Most importantly, the public sector in a majority of Arab countries continues to suffer from mounting deficiencies in terms of quality, efficiency and accessibility of government services1. Meanwhile, the ever-growing connectivity2 in the Arab world has paved the way for the emergence of varying forms of networked societies where individuals and groups are firmly connected -and empowered by a medium of free-flowing information, ideas and knowledge. This increased connectivity has reached a critical mass of the population in the Arab region, both in terms of expanding physical communication channels such as computing devices, smart phones and other internet-enabled ‘things’, as well as informational channels in the form of affordable internet subscriptions and an arsenal of social media accounts.

With internet users in the Arab region finally reaching the global average in 2014 for the first time ever - a developmental milestone for the region - suddenly this critical mass has gained access to massive volumes of data and information on every facet of life in their region and beyond. Coupled with wide scale political instability in many Arab counties, this new found ‘awareness’ is increasingly leading to rising expectations of government services by citizens.

These new realities empowered large number of individuals and groups in the region to proactively utilize technological and informational means to voice opinions, make suggestions, give feedback as well as proactively innovate. These new transformations promise to enable individuals and organizations in the region to co-design, coproduce and deliver better or new public services, overcoming many shortcomings in the Arab public sector and filling the gaps left by the state.

These socio-technological transformations have flattened informational hierarchies, changed trust models both in society and between citizens and government, re-defined many leadership characteristics, altered power structures and transformed the landscape of public service and policy making cycles significantly. Many governments in the Arab region realize today that they need to proactively engage citizens and partner with civil society structures as well as with businesses, to find innovative ways for delivering public services that are inclusive, citizencentric, responsive, timely and cost-effective.

With regards to service delivery, the unintended side-effects of the ‘new public management’ era and the documented limitations in the ‘electronic government’ era4 provide invaluable lessons for policy makers in the ongoing ‘open government’ and ‘social media’ era.

With around 82 million Arab users today at 22 percent penetration rates regionally, social media is already providing the medium for overcoming many of the monumental barriers for re-inventing public service in the Arab world. With around 41 percent Internet penetration and above 110 percent mobile penetration in the region, we are also witnessing a new wave of convergence, with online social media tools merging with smart phone messaging applications. For example, the largest social media platform; Facebook has recently merged with WhatsApp, one of the widest used smart phone messaging platform. This meant that Facebook now has access to new datasets for 500 million users, majority of whom are already using Facebook. By the 2nd quarter of 2014, these users were exchanging 64 billion messages using their smartphones each day worldwide, up from 54 billion a day four months earlier.

As with every new technological step forward, these changes are already opening a new era of opportunities for businesses and new channels for government engagement with citizens. Social media platforms are aggressively seeking better smart phone integration, as this is bringing new opportunities to develop location-based services, provide better customer experiences with merged identities and develop an ‘always on’ experience regardless of the technological channels the customers are using. In a region where mobile penetration is well above 100 percent, many governments have started taking advantage of such opportunities to provide innovative public services for citizens through a combination of smart phones and social media applications.

However, universal connectivity, critical mass of users, big data analysis tools coupled with ubiquitous penetration of smarter devices also give way to new risks, where misuse of personal data and information by governments, businesses and individuals becomes easier and more feasible than ever. These are some of the policy implications fixed at the radar screen of every single government globally. As was the case in the early days of e-government development, adapting to these disruptive technological changes will eventually reach equilibrium where a regional and local ‘right fit’ will be achieved.


Autor(en)/Author(s): Alula Berhe Kidani

Quelle/Source: Sudan Vision, 25.04.2015

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