UAE makes 41% of Arab world’s Facebook users

June 23, 2013 | By More

Of all the Facebook users in the Arab world, the UAE has some 41 per cent — almost double the amount of the country next in line, according to the fifth edition of the Arab Social Media Report series.

human rights observers - UAE makes 41of arab worlds facebook users international1

The report is part of a series spearheaded by the Governance and Innovation Programme at the Dubai School of Government, which conducted a regional survey with around 4,000 participants, exploring perceptions about the quality of schooling in the region, the use of technology and social media in the classroom at different educational levels, interruptions to schooling due to conflict, as well as views on educational reform.

Analysing demographics, the report reveals that the UAE continues to score the highest amongst all Arab countries in terms of Facebook penetration at 41 per cent, while Egypt claims around 25 per cent of Arab Facebook users and Saudi Arabia has more than half 50 per cent of the Arab active Twitter users. However, for the first time, most GCC countries saw a drop in social media adoption for the first time in 2013.

Mariyam Reshi, a 13-year-old Indian High School student said all of her classmates were on Facebook.

“When we go home, we share the day’s happenings and like each other’s statuses.” When asked if she could fathom her world without FB, she giggled and said: “No way … I don’t know how my parents used to manage.”

But parents may not be so enthusiastic about the widespread use of social networks, with the report showing they were concerned about the effect of social media, of Facebook and Twitter, on their school-going children.

While 55 per cent of students said they used social media as a classroom resource, and 10 per cent of parents said their children have access to social media platforms in the classroom, more than half said their children’s classrooms did not encourage Facebooking or Tweeting. More than half of parents, 56 per cent, said they were worried that their children got distracted from other tasks with access to social media.

Abeer Matthew, 48, father of 12-year-old twins Sherlyn and Jacob, said he was against the “invasion of technology in schools, at least till students reach grade 9”. Matthew said he did not much care for receiving homework assignments through email, forget about any social networking. Matthew, a management consultant in Abu-Dhabi said he had to travel a lot on work, and was constantly interacting with people for business who allowed their pre-teenage children to operate their own Facebook accounts, but it was not for him. “I don’t think it’s healthy … they need to be forming more human, one-to-one connections. When they leave the home and go away, they can make as many online associations as they please, while in school and in my house, no.”

The research also surveyed parents in Arab countries suffering from political instabilities, violence and civil strife.

Fadi Salem, Director of the Governance and Innovation Programme at the Dubai School of Government and co-author of the report, said: “With more than 55 million active Arab users of Facebook and 3.7 million of Twitter, social media is already playing a growing role in formal and informal education. The emergence of new concepts like ‘social learning’, ‘intelligent decision making networks’ and ‘massive open online courses’, is enabling educators, students and educational institutions to rely on social media tools.”

The percentage of Arabic tweets generated reached 74 per cent of total tweets in the region in March 2013, up from 62 per cent a year ago.

Facebook registered an increase of 10 million users between June 2012 and May 2013. The number of active Twitter users in the Arab World has also grown from just over two million to 3.7 million in the past year. In March 2013, Arab Twitter users generated 336 million tweets.

Associated press journalist for human rights observers – contributed to this report.

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Category: International

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