Social media is helping good governments to get better
This newspaper recently reported on the five most accessible members of the Federal National Council, highlighting those representatives who proactively engage with the public via social media, particularly Twitter. After reviewing this list I started to think about how much influence Twitter has had on the Arab world: for good and for bad, but also how some countries have embraced social media.
Generally, the UAE has always had a leadership that is accessible and well aware of the social and economic concerns of the people.
Leader who are available on Twitter are not only telling the people they govern that they are there to help with problems, but also allow them to be opened up to more scrutiny and, in some cases, ridicule. In a country as small as the UAE, one bad tweet can fly from one corner to another in a matter of minutes.
Many people associate the use of Twitter in the Arab world with the fall of once indestructible leaders or as a communication tool for the oppressed. However, I feel that the UAE has shown how Twitter can be a force for good in society – not only maintaining social, economic and political stability, but also growing and enhancing it.
Deep down, I feel that was what Twitter was made for: to be a tool that creates dialogue to connect people, rather than create voices to tear them apart.
For instance, the UAE launched a nationwide brainstorming campaign on Twitter, where citizens submitted their thoughts and ideas on how to develop the country, and ministers including Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid, Vice President of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, sat down to mine through the data that had been collected. I am pretty sure that’s a worldwide first.
Furthermore, Twitter trends are frequently launched to promote unity among UAE citizens and residents and enhance support for initiatives being undertaken.
I don’t know about you, but it gives me goose bumps to see millions of people working together like this in this virtual world.
Embracing Twitter with such openness is not without its challenges: first of all there will be instances where disagreement and debate occur on matters that traditionally would not have been discussed in public.
Secondly, leaders will be virtually accessible in ways they may not be used to, and people may be a bit more outspoken about sensitive issues that impact a few, but still create a viral wave across the web.
And last but certainly not least, there is a sense of accountability like never before. If something goes wrong and people are unhappy about a decision a leader has made, that leader is very likely to wake up the next morning with so many complaints on their Twitter feed that they will wish they had never set up an account in the first place.
I feel we need to have that dialogue and those moments of discomfort when things go wrong. It is all part of how we grow. There will be some short-term pain, but there will also be a lot of long-term gain.
It never ceases to amaze me how the UAE continues to use Twitter as a means to bring communities closer together and to break down the walls of hierarchy and formality in a proactive and positive manner.
There will be moments when things get out of hand. There will be times where disagreements occur on a much wider scale. But even when we have differences, all that matters is that Twitter allows us to work together for the good of the country and to move forward.
Khalid Al Ameri is an MBA candidate at the Stanford Graduate School of Business
On Twitter: @KhalidAlAmeri
Updated: March 29, 2014 04:00 AM