Dubai: The second episode of ‘Kingdom Dialogue’, an online forum where Saudi citizens can take up issues and concerns with officials, will take place on September 15, according to the parent company of Google.
Next Saturday’s episode of the dialogue, which is conducted through YouTube, will see the president of the Saudi Anti-Corruption Commission, Mohammad Bin Abdullah Al Sharif, fielding queries from the public.
The first episode of the dialogue, which was launched by the King Abdul Aziz Centre for National Dialogue (KACND) and Google, was held earlier this year and saw the minister of education, Prince Faisal Bin Abdullah, addressing issues raised by citizens.
The initiative utilises technologies provided by Google and YouTube.
“Internet is playing an increasingly significant role, helping bolster civic engagement and has become a powerful mechanism for information-sharing with citizens,” a statement by Google said.
“KACND is leveraging the popularity of YouTube among Saudis to engage with its citizens on topics and issues important to them,” it added.
Users will be allowed to communicate directly with officials by submitting their questions in text or video format after a vote decides the main topics with Google Moderator ranking the most popular questions.
During the first episode, nearly 3,000 questions were submitted to the minister of education including those pertaining to health care in schools, curriculum development and teacher benefits. Afterwards, nearly 30,000 votes were cast to prioritise the questions users wanted to ask the official.
The online interface is the first initiative of its kind in Saudi Arabia and the Gulf Region. However, Google, which has moderated several previous dialogues over the internet — four in Egypt and one in Tunisia — has no office in Saudi Arabia.
The business of Google in Saudi Arabia is conducted through the Dubai-based regional office of the global company. Officials at Google had earlier expressed hope that they would be able to establish an office in Saudi Arabia in the near future with the size of the Saudi market among the most encouraging elements.