x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 23 January 2018

Much more twittering in Arab world

Twitter users in the Arab world almost doubled, from 2 million to 3.7 million, in the past year as Arabic-language tweets ballooned.

Arabic accounted for almost three quarters of the 336 million tweets sent in the region during March. AFP Photo / Fred Tanneau
Arabic accounted for almost three quarters of the 336 million tweets sent in the region during March. AFP Photo / Fred Tanneau

Twitter users in the Arab world almost doubled, from 2 million to 3.7 million, in the past year as Arabic-language tweets ballooned.

The latest Arab Social Media Report from the Dubai School of Government found that Arabic accounted for almost three quarters of the 336 million tweets sent in the region during March.

Facebook registered an additional 10 million users that month, with the network now used by more than four in 10 people in the UAE.

"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, on-demand training and in capacity building," said Fadi Salem, the director of the governance and innovation programme at Dubai School of Government, who co-authored the report.

But the report exposed deep divisions in views towards the benefits of social media for Arab youth.

More than half of all parents surveyed, 56 per cent, said they were concerned with the distractions social media could create for their children.

Yet among teachers, 55 per cent of those responding to the survey said they encouraged the use of social media as a classroom resource.

Online teaching has also come into its own following the Arab Spring, with more than two thirds of respondents saying that use of online resources could help children to catch up on schooling interrupted by political unrest.

Teaching methods on the internet, such as EdX, Coursera and Udacity, have been viewed as a challenge to satellite campuses and the UAE's aspirations as an education hub.

The rise in use of social media networks coincides with explosive growth in smartphone use across the region.

In the UAE, there were 173.7 mobile phone subscriptions per 100 residents at the end of March, compared with 11.9 broadband subscriptions per 100 inhabitants and a 13 per cent increase in mobile use from the same month a year earlier, according to the UAE Telecommunications Regulatory Authority.

 

ghunter@thenational.ae