Social media membership soars across Arab world
Social networking has become key tool for political activism
Facebook and Twitter will continue to play a central role in helping create and organise both social and civil movements in the Arab world, according to the inaugural Arab Social Media Report (ASMR).
"Events taking place in Tunisia and Egypt showcased the power of social media in mobilising civil movements in the Arab world. It is no coincidence that Tunis has witnessed an 8% sudden surge in the number of Facebook users during the first two weeks of January 2011, coupled with a shift in the usage trend from merely social in nature into primarily political. A critical mass of young Arab users has been reached in several Arab countries. With 225 million Arabs under the age of 30, this large part of the population is empowered today and is utilising these platforms in every part of their lives," said Fadi Salem, fellow and director of the Governance and Innovation Programme at the Dubai School of Government.
The penetration of social networking is soaring across the Arab world, with growth highest in youth between the ages of 15 and 29, who make up a third of the total Arab population. According to the report, Facebook users in the Middle East have grown by 78% from 11.9 million in January 2010, to 21.3 million in December 2010. Seventy-five per cent of the Facebook community in the Arab world is between the ages of 15 and 29.
Racha Mourtada, a research associate with the Programme, said: "Social networking technologies have become a staple in people's everyday lives, merging their online and offline existence, and becoming one of the main methods of social connection and interaction around the world, whether between individuals, with businesses or governments. The perception today is that these tools can potentially enhance citizen engagement in the Arab region, promote social inclusion and create opportunities for employment, entrepreneurship and development."
This report also indicated that the UAE ranked first in the Arab world for Facebook membership, with 45% of the population using the social networking site. The UAE is also among the top ten countries in the world for Facebook penetration. Four GCC countries dominate the top five spots in the Arab world in terms of Facebook users as percentage of population.
"Social networking technologies have rewired information flows in most Arab countries and boosted the reach and impact of information within societies and governments," said Salem.