The GCC region is gearing up for a seismic shift in the way governments utilise social media, as prominent representatives assemble for the GCC Government Social Media Summit. From 17th to 19th September, social media will be in the spotlight as over 200 high-powered delegates representing GCC / MENA region, Commonwealth countries and beyond come together at the Dubai’s DIFC Ritz-Carlton.

The opening speech will be presented by the keynote speaker, His Excellency Salem Khamis Al Shair Al Suwaidi, Deputy Director General for Information and eGovernment Sector, Telecommunications Regulatory Authority (TRA). Attending representatives will include high-ranking ministers, senior public / private sector officials, internationally-acclaimed academics, communication gurus, social media and ICT practitioners and other specialists from this field.

The Arab world in general and the UAE in particular, have enthusiastically embraced social media. The population has some of the world’s highest usage rates for digital media. Therefore, the over-riding objective of the summit is to keep governments in touch with their tech-savvy populations, culminating in closer, faster and more efficient interaction with the public.

His Excellency Salem Al Suwaidi, Deputy Director General for Information and eGovernment Sector, TRA, reiterated by stating: “Social media has become an effective tool for channeling governments’ official communications with the public. Therefore I hope this summit will encourage governments to be more proactive, responsive and progressive.”

“The UAE officials and government entities are among the most active in using social media tools. Our role model in this regard is His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai who has almost one million followers on Twitter. His Highness communicates with the public and asks their feedback on various issues through social media,” Al Suwaidi added.

According to the UN eGovernment Survey 2012, the UAE is ranked sixth globally in eParticipation. According to the same Survey, The UAE scored 100 per cent on whether the government takes citizens’ views into decision-making.”

Seeing the emerging trend of the need for social media use by government entities, TRA had launched the Guidelines for Social Media Usage in UAE government entities document in March 2011. The document, which won Social Media Initiative of the Year award in 2011, lays down certain useful practices and safety measures that aid in the effective use of social media.

These sentiments were echoed by Fadi Salem, Director of the Governance and Innovation Programme at the Dubai School of Government, which is the summit’s Knowledge Partner: “The most precious tool of any government is information. Governments in the region are realising that information is no longer a one-way monologue but a two-way dialogue with the public. With more than 12 percent of the young population in the Arab region actively using social media, governments can now actively engage with a fast-growing part of the society and stay updated on the public’s needs and opinions, thereby responding with effective policies.”

Summit will be a game-changer yielding short, medium and long term benefits. For instance, it has wide-ranging and far-reaching implications for those setting up government policy on the subject.

Rishi Saha, Regional Director, Hill & Knowlton Strategies said:“From my former role as Head of Digital Communications to Prime Minister Cameron in 10 Downing Street, I know first-hand the impact that social media is having on Government. Citizen engagement, public information campaigning, media relations and crisis management have all been transformed by Web 2.0, and it is clear that we are only at the very start of this digital journey.”

Nicholas Webb, Managing Partner for the event organisers, Streamline Marketing Group, added that: “The summit will feature master classes, networking, public talks and other attractions to cultivate a free-flow of fresh ideas. The summit’s legacy is that it will transform the public into genuine followers, fans and above all, friends of government services.

 

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