x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 24 July 2017

UAE at the forefront of the communication revolution

The UAE's connectivity had soared in my absence. The country now boasts one of the highest Facebook penetrations in the world, with more than 62 per cent of the population registered with the site.

When it came to the latest in communication technology, I was always the last of my friends to jump on board. At the risk of ending up dating myself, it began when I was the last of my high-school friends to get a pager/beeper, which, rather than being a cool communication device, became a way my mother could constantly enquire about my whereabouts.

My friends urged me to purchase a mobile phone when they first became popular so that, like my mum before them, they'd be able to locate me and better coordinate a meeting. But, once again, I held out longer than most and continued relying on archaic landlines and pay phones to keep in touch.

Then came the life-changing internet, where people could send instant written messages with a click of a button. Once more I was the last to alter my life and resisted getting a Hotmail account - until after many of my friends' parents signed up. Millions of people around the world, including most of my family and friends, had already capitalised on social media by the time I reluctantly signed up to Facebook.

Although the pressure to conform to my peers' communication capabilities while living in the United States was tangible, I had no idea that the level of connectivity back home was significantly greater.

I returned to find my family actively participating in an uber-connected society - my father, brothers, nieces and nephews were not only avid social-media users but also stayed connected through their mobile phones. Emirati adolescents casually switching from chatting on their BlackBerries to browsing the net on their iPhones and elders answering emails on their big-screen Galaxies - this was not what I expected to see.

The urge to obtain a smartphone in the US was minimal because only a few of my friends had joined the smartphone sphere.

But in my hyper-connected homeland, I was a rare outsider who would remain on the periphery unless I took yet another technological plunge.

The UAE's connectivity had soared in my absence. The country now boasts one of the highest Facebook penetrations in the world, with more than 62 per cent of the population registered with the site, according to Socialbakers, a social media and digital analytics company.

It also has one of the highest rates of Twitter users in the Middle East; new members are being added at an exponential rate. The Emirates has seen its active Twitter numbers shoot up by more than 93 per cent in the short time between September 2011 and March 2012, according to a report by the Dubai School of Government. This is also evident in the increasing number of public and private organisations using the site.

Social media is now an essential ingredient in the development and progress of any modern nation. Making sure that an increasing number of the public is connected, informed and engaged can only benefit the advancement of a nation.

The UAE must continue being at the forefront of the communication revolution and not wait around - as I always have - for everyone else to get there first.

 

Thamer Al Subaihi is a reporter for The National

tsubaihi@thenational.ae