There are currently about five million Facebook users in the UAE, which represent six per cent of the total number of Facebook users in the Arab World, and 28 per cent of those in the GCC.
Facebook estimates that 3.5 million of the UAE's Facebook users are in Dubai, who have over the course of March alone exchanged over a billion messages, left 111.5 million comments, and posted over 45 million pictures. Overall, the UAE has one of the highest rates of Facebook penetration in the Arab World at 60.4 per cent, second only to Qatar. Just under half of all Facebook users in the country (48 per cent) are under 30. Dubai's government has increasingly looked to Facebook to connect with local residents, with RTA, Dewa and the Dubai Police each having hundreds of thousands followers. For his part, His Highness Shaikh Mohammed bin Rashid al Maktoum, Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai's official Facebook page has almost 2.5 million followers.
"What makes Dubai an exciting place is that when they reach a local audience here, they are also reaching a global audience, in many languages and from many cultures,” said Elizabeth Linder, Facebook's Politics and Government Specialist for Europe, the Middle East and Africa.
FB to connect Dubai government with people:
Dubai is among the world's leaders in exploring the use of Facebook as a government instrument to interact with people, according to a Facebook specialist in the region.
Elizabeth Linder, Facebook's Politics and Government Specialist for Europe, the Middle East and Africa, was in Dubai last week to conduct a workshop on the use of social media organised by the Dubai Media Office.
"Our job is to advise government agencies, even diplomats how best to connect with citizens, and share best practices,” Linder said. "Globally, there is a huge desire to look carefully at what we can do with the space (social media).”
"There is very much of an appetite for that here and they (Dubai authorities) really pride themselves on it,” she added.
Among other things, local officials were taught how to verify the Facebook pages of officials, manage content and conduct question and answer sessions with the public.
In an interview, Linder told the Khaleej Times that Dubai's multi-cultural environment gives the government a unique opportunity to reach a wide-spectrum of people.
"There are millions of people on Facebook here, as there are around the world,” she said. "But what makes Dubai an exciting place is that when they reach a local audience here, they are also reaching a global audience, in many languages and from many cultures.”
"RTA, for example, has to always ask itself how to reach people from all over the world through social media,” she added.
According to the 2014 UAE Social Media Outlook compiled by the Mohammed bin Rashid School of Government, there are about five million Facebook users in the UAE, of which Facebook estimates that 3.5 million are active in Dubai. Over the course of March, these users collectively exchanged almost 1.07 billion messages, left 111.5 million comments and put up almost 46 million pictures.
Linder said Facebook gives the government of Dubai — and other governments around the world — an opportunity to establish dialogue with members of the public.
"At the moment, Facebook sits more within the realm of communications departments,” Linder noted. "But this is about reaching out to people. Facebook is an opportunity for two-way dialogue.”
The 2014 UAE Social Media Outlook found that 59 per cent of users regularly visit government social media pages, 31 per cent of whom visiting multiple times per day.
Linder noted that Facebook gives the government of Dubai a low-cost opportunity to receive information and feedback from local residents without much expense.
"With Facebook, you can really experiment without putting all your resources in,” she said. "The potential of that to inform is huge.”
Other governments and representative bodies around the world are increasingly looking to Facebook as a way to connect with society at large.
As an example, Linder noted that Denmark's parliament has recently begun allowing Facebook fans into the press gallery to report live from sessions and engage with constituents, and observed that the European Parliament uses Facebook to help people interact with elected members and deliver twice-daily updates.
Linder predicts that in future Facebook will increasingly allow populations to become intimately involved in the decisions of policy makers.
"We will see a much closer relationship between power making and idea generation,” she said. "No matter where you're from, you're probably on Facebook, and people on Facebook will be closer to government policies.”
Source: Khaleej Times