Data and social media take centre stage at Sharjah forum

The International Government Communication Forum is in its eighth year

The International Government Communication Forum returned to Sharjah today. 
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The eighth annual International Government Communication Forum focused on the role of government communication in supporting and enhancing human capital development.

During the opening panel, which looked at human behaviour and communication, the topic of social media and personal featured heavily.

Roger Fisk, a media strategist for former US President Barack Obama, spoke about the success of Obama's presidential campaign success by micro-campaigning using data and social media.

Also on the panel was Dr Lamya  Fawwaz, executive director for brand and strategic initiatives at Masdar. She spoke highly of the UAE’s strategy of communicating with its citizens.

“We know from behavioural science that people must be motivated to take a step or decision,” she said, pointing to the UAE’s choice to give years different themes. This year is the Year of Tolerance, the idea is a way to build dialogue and a sense of community through social media.

She also stressed the importance for governments to pay attention to young people.

“The youth are taking a huge role in shaping the future of policy and strategy and it’s important for us to understand how,” she said.

“A modern communication language must be created to address young people, who make up 60 per cent of the population of the Middle East."

Taking more of a worried view on data, social media and technology during the discussions was prominent author and tech sceptic Andrew Keen.

Keen also said that many governments now have more data on citizens than ever before, but it remains to be seen exactly how data is being used.

One of the most-anticipated speakers expected at IGCF, veteran US news personality Larry King, was unable to make the trip to Sharjah.

Sheikh Dr Sultan bin Muhammad Al Qasimi, Supreme Council Member and Ruler of Sharjah, took to the podium to emphasise the need for communities to embrace new technologies.

Approximately 37,000 people are registered to attend the two-day conference, with more than 20 UAE government entities represented to take part.