Sharjah Press Club hosted a panel discussion entitled, ‘Communication Drives Government Policies’, at the fifth International Government Communication Forum, IGCF 2016, today.
Khadija Hussain, Director of Communications and Development at the UAE Ministry of Cabinet Affairs, and Rashid Al Falahi, Director of Government Affairs at the Emirates Nuclear Energy Corporation, ENEC, said that government communicators need to adapt to the age of instant news and rethink their communication strategies.
Hussain said it is no longer appropriate for government communication departments to simply push reactive information to citizens in the age of instant communications. Instead, government communicators should be more proactive and stimulate sustained dialogue with people so that public views are organically factored in when shaping public policy.
Hussain added, "People are eager for information. They want to know what a decision means for them and how it will benefit them. It is important that government departments use the most appropriate means to reach out to their people and analyse the feedback they receive to ensure the effectiveness of all public policies."
Al Falahi highlighted that in an era of information overload, it is important for governments to ensure that their communications are straightforward, easy to understand and quickly absorbed.
He said, "Government departments must ensure they select the right methods to communicate and tailor their messages to the needs of their particular audiences," citing the example of how ENEC had used verbal communication to reach out to Bedouin tribes living near the nuclear reactors under construction in Barakah, west of Ruwais.
Both Al Falahi and Hussain agreed that government departments should make use of social media platforms to communicate more effectively with young people. "Young people make up 50% of the Arab world," Hussain said. "Not paying attention to them is like swimming against the tide."
The panelists said the decision by His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, to appoint a Minister of Youth had sent a clear signal to young people that their collective voice would be listened to.
Al Falahi pointed out, "It was not a haphazard decision. It has raised expectations and will encourage young people to be more involved and aware of what is happening around them."