by the Dubai School of Government
The societal and political transformations sweeping the Arab region have empowered large segments of the region’s population. Many stereotypes have been shattered, with Arab youth, “netizens” and women becoming the main drivers for regional change. Arab women in particular have become more engaged in political and civic actions, playing a critical leading role in the rapid and historic changes that have swept the region. Meanwhile, the debate about the role of social media in these transformations has reached policy making circles at the regional and global levels.
Throughout 2011, social media usage continued to grow significantly across the Arab world, coupled with major shifts in usage trends. From merely being used as a tool for social networking and entertainment, social media now infiltrates almost every aspect of the daily lives of millions of Arabs, affecting the way they interact socially, do business, interact with government, or engage in civil society movements. By the end of 2011, Arab users’ utilization of social media had evolved to encompass civic engagement, political participation, entrepreneurial efforts, and social change.
The impact of communication technologies in the Arab Revolution has encouraged the Obama administration to heavily invest in developing communication technologies that will enhance the ability of the US to influence public opinion in repressive nations around the world. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said:
We see more and more people around the globe using the Internet, mobile phones and other technologies to make their voices heard as they protest against injustice and seek to realize their aspirations…There is a historic opportunity to effect positive change, change America supports…So we’re focused on helping them do that, on helping them talk to each other, to their communities, to their governments and to the world.