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Govts must adapt to social media

Experts at the World Economic Forum discussed what the rise of social media means for governments

Govts must adapt to social media
Oliver Cann, Director, Media Relations, World Economic Forum, Martina Larkin, Senior Director, Head of the Network of Global Agenda Councils, World Economic Forum, Carl Bildt, Minister of Foreign Affairs of Sweden (2006-2014); Global Agenda Council on Europe and Yasar Jarrar, Partner, Bain & Company, United Arab Emirates; Young Global Leader; Global Agenda Council on the Future of Government at the World Economic Forum - Summit on the Global Agenda 2014 in Dubai.

A lack of confidence in global leadership has been shown on The Global leadership Index as 86% of the respondents agreed that the world is facing a leadership crisis. The Index is based on a survey of over 1,200 experts from the Forum's Network of Global Agenda Councils.

Martina Larkin, senior director and head of the Network of Global Agenda Councils at the World Economic Forum, said that the rise of social media means that citizens are now looking for better collaboration and better communication from leaders.

Since the Arab Spring, the role that social media plays to communicate what citizens want to say has grown even stronger, putting the topic on the global agenda.

"The level of expectations is increasing for all parts of the society, from business, governments or NGOS. These expectations are now fuelled by the rise of social media and the use of technology that allow us to compare and share what is happening in other countries. Maybe the governments are not getting worse but now their weaknesses are getting more exposed," said Yasar Jarrar, partner, Bain & Company, United Arab Emirates; and Young Global Leader; Global Agenda Council on the Future of Government.

Carl Bildt, former prime minister of Sweden, said that the world is under a lot of pressure because of social media. He pointed out that, within five years, 65% of the global population will be covered by 4G or 5G mobile broadband networks.

"It means that in that 65% population of the world, nearly every person under 15 or 20 years of age, will have some sort of sophisticated mobile phone. Affordable mobile phones are coming to the industry and it allows people to have them and social media will be in these platforms, which means that traditional media will have to change and governments will have to change because their interactions with their electorate will have to be through social media too," he explained.

"Political leaders will have to communicate both ways: sending the message [political message] by social media and getting their message [citizens' message] by social media. It is a true revolution that is coming with social media. We are only at the beginning of it and we can probably understand the magnitude of it in the next few years," Bildt added.

According to Analysys Mason, the addressable market for smartphone users will increase in the Middle East and North Africa and Sub-Saharan Africa as GDP per capita increases and mobile infrastructure improves, but smartphone penetration will remain low through 2018 (at 34% and 26% of handsets, respectively). 

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