Dubai: Although the UAE has one of the highest rates of social media penetration in the Arab world on platforms like Facebook and LinkedIn, a survey has found that engagement with the government on its social media pages was surprisingly low.
The survey found that 78 per cent of the participants visit government social media pages to access information on government services but only eight per cent give feedback or evaluations on these social media pages.
This finding highlights the fact that social media is still primarily being used as a one-way tool to gather information rather than being used as a medium for discussion and engagement with the government.
The survey titled ‘2014 UAE social media outlook: increasing connectivity between government and citizen’ was conducted on 3,000 people in the region (330 from the UAE) by the Governance and Innovation Programme at the Mohammad Bin Rashid School of Government (MBRSG) in cooperation with Dubai Press Club. The study was launched at a press conference held on Monday.
Racha Mourtada, Acting Director of the Programme, said this is normal with any new communication channel as the survey found that many people still do not trust sharing their information with a governmental body.
She said this can be changed as people’s trust needs to be gained over time.
Dr Ali Sebaa Al Merri, Executive President of MBRSG, said the lack of feedback among respondents is an area that needs to be worked on, suggesting that more awareness is needed among citizens about the importance of providing feedback.
When asked what was their preferable choice when seeking information about government services, only four per cent of respondents reported that social media was their first choice of medium.
Another two per cent listed government mobile apps as their first choice for accessing such information. Given that search engines are most people’s default tool for finding information, it is not surprising that the favoured method overall was using an online search engine, as reported by 37 per cent of respondents.
A total of 59 per cent of respondents stated that they visited official government social media pages regularly, with 20 per cent of them visiting these pages at least once a week, eight per cent of them at least once a day, and 31 per cent of them several times a day.
Of the remaining 41 per cent, 29 per cent claimed that they rarely visited official government social media pages, while 12 per cent said they never did.
When asked about the benefits of using these platforms, the majority of respondents agreed that using social media for public service when it comes to design and delivery could be beneficial.
In terms of short-term benefits, 85 per cent said that by making communication between customers and government more efficient, social media could reduce the costs of creating and delivering these services, while 80 per cent believed that social media’s capacity to enhance information exchange could increase service quality.
When asked about the risks, the leading potential risk was that of questionable information validity, as reported by 78 per cent of respondents, followed by reputational damage, which was a concern for 66 per cent of respondents. A majority of respondents also indicated that cyber security, negative citizen participation, information overload, and a fear of government’s misuse of citizen information were all possible risks.
The report is available for download from www.mbrsg.ae and www.ArabSocialMediaReport.com