x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 22 July 2017

UAE citizens travelling abroad will receive Twitter alerts about emergencies

Ministry of Foreign Affairs plans to use social networks more as a means to stay in touch with citizens.

DUBAI // UAE citizens abroad can look to social networking sites for updates from their government on developing international crises.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs is looking to increasingly make use of Twitter to post travel warnings where needed, as well as accurate information on incidents involving UAE citizens abroad.

The announcement follows a stream of updates last week from the @MOFAUAE profile over the drowning of an Emirati child in Egypt.

Saeed Al Dhaheri, an advisor on information systems at the Ministry, said this kind of coverage would become more common in future.

"If there's a situation happening somewhere in the world, we will use social media to try and alert our citizens," he said on the sidelines of the GCC Government Social Media Summit.

"In the most recent case, the Ministry tried to play an important role in terms of communicating directly with the ambassador in Egypt and giving information about the child," he said.

"The Ministry tried to play a role and eliminate any rumours coming out, or criticism that the embassy is not helping.

"It depends on case by case, on how we respond and engage. Sometimes we will communicate through press releases or TV, other times we will use Twitter to send alerts about these crises."

The Ministry issued updates on its Twitter site on September 8, when Hamad Abdulla Al Ali, 6, first went missing during a night cruise on the River Nile.

In several tweets, the Ministry stated that the safety of its citizens abroad was a priority.

In his presentation, Dr Al Dhaheri highlighted a case where an Emirati citizen travelling in France communicated via Twitter with the UAE ambassador after getting into trouble.

"We now advise people to connect with the ambassador of the countries where they are travelling to, in case they are in a similar situation and need help and support," he said.

The forum aimed to show how governments around the world had adopted social networks as a means to communicate with their citizens.

Dr Al Dhaheri said the pattern was emerging across different government departments. He said it was increasingly important bearing in mind the unrest across the region. "Public opinion matters," he said. "This is a question of how we win the hearts and minds of the people and shape their opinion."