The use of social media has taken over all other modes of communication over the past few years. Although the use of social media for commercial purposes has been excessive, the public sector has been relatively slow in its uptake of this medium. It is only recently that governments and public sector entities are beginning to see its scope and usefulness.
With one of the highest mobile, internet, and social media penetration rates in the world, it is not surprising to note that the rate of usage for Facebook is increasing steadily in the UAE. According to statistics revealed by stats.ae, Facebook penetration rate in Abu Dhabi increased by 2.4% from December 2012 to May 2013, with total users increasing by 48.5%. The Emirate is reported to have the second largest contribution to the rise in total Facebook users in UAE for the same period, as shown in the figure below:
Although the statistics are impressive, they mainly represent the personal and commercial use of Facebook. Its use by the public sector still remains highly restricted, and only a handful of public sector entities are using Facebook as a communication tool. Among the most active UAEgovernmental Facebook users are the Abu Dhabi Police and various federal entities as depicted in the infographic below:
The Abu Dhabi eGovernment Gateway, Abu Dhabi Education Council, Statistics Center Abu Dhabi, Abu Dhabi Municipality, and a several others have recently increased their Facebook presence as well. Notable upsurges in Facebook activity have resulted in success stories, such as the Abu Dhabi Education Council’swhich reported a 106% increase in its Facebook fan following over the past two years. Similarly, the Abu Dhabi Tawteen Council reported a 163% risein their Facebook following.
Despite Facebook’s usefulness and multi-functionality, many public and semi-government entities are still struggling to incorporate this medium as a tool for mass communication. However, with social media penetration, numbers are continuously increasing, and with a strong support to adopt effective e-government strategies, we may soon see more public sector entities increase their Facebook activities.
With the UAE Vision 2030 in place, the use of social media, particularly Facebook, can considerably help in realizing the goals set out in the vision and sharing this vision with citizens and residents. As infrastructure andeconomic development continue at a fast rate, it will be important tofocuson enhancinggovernment communication and e-participation to reach out and keep UAE residents informed and involved.
Facebook in this regard can be used for various purposes:
From humble beginnings in 2004 as a small application limited to Harvard University students, to today’s behemoth social networking application for virtually the entire planet, Facebook is the primary social networking site of adults and businesses. Creating a professional-looking site on Facebook and using its powerful networking platform is no longer optional for businesses or government entitiesthat want to maintain a high profile brand reputation. With proper management, it is the perfect tool to advance an organization’s vision, mission, and goals for the public, not only locally, but throughout the world. Facebook is also where customers expect to find information concerning the activities and services provided by public or private enterprises. The power of Facebook to promote your business, no matter what that business is, whether for-profit, government, or NGO is virtually unlimited.