Ajman Al Munif from Saudi Arabia, Faisal Al Basri from Kuwait, Hatoon Kadi from Saudi Arabia, Adam Saleh from USA and Abdullaziz Al Jasmi from UAE speaking at “New Media : New Phenomena” session on the first day of Arab Media Forum. Image Credit: Virendra Saklani/Gulf News

Dubai: A new report released on Monday at the Arab Media Forum showed that social media is used by the majority of internet users across the Arab world and is their primary source of news.

The Arab Social Media Outlook 2014 suggested that 71 million people used social media in the region last year out of a total 135 million internet users.

The report was done in cooperation with the Dubai Press Club (DPC) and the Governance and Innovation Programme at the Mohammad Bin Rashid School of Government (MBRSG).

Dr. Ali Sebaa Al Marri, executive president of MBRSG, said: “In an age where media plays a central role in shaping our societies, the MBRSG’s Governance and Innovation Programme seeks to gauge and analyse the role of social media platforms on knowledge and innovation through supporting active engagement between governments and people. This partnership reflects the importance of scientific research in formulating sound public policies on one hand and putting solid data to practical use on the other,” added Al Marri.

Mona Al Marri, president of the Dubai Press Club and chairperson of AMF’s Organising Committee, said: “The report takes into perspective the wide spread of social media platforms and its relation to the media scene in the Arab world. It also sheds light on new communication trends and poses a challenge to media professionals to constantly update their news-gathering procedures, especially in a time where the public have the tools to disseminate news [information] quickly.”

The ‘Arab Social Media Outlook 2014’ focuses on the demographics of social media platforms in the Arab world.

For example, Egypt topped the Arab countries with the largest Facebook user base in 2013 whereas the UAE recorded the highest penetration to population ratio of 54 per cent; an increase of one million users during 2013.

Fadi Salem, director of the Governance and Innovation Programme at the MBRSG and co-author of the report, said: “Convergence between social media platforms and conventional media has become an undisputed fact. The report shows that users of social media platforms across the Arab world reached 71 million individuals by the end of 2013 out of a total of 135 million individuals using the Internet.”

“Social media is actively competing with conventional media as a primary source of news for millions of Arabs. Nearly 30 per cent of individuals participating in the survey consider social media to be the primary source of news, which is similar to the percentage of individuals considering conventional media outlets as the main source of news,” added Salem.