Social media played ‘arguably critical role’ in Arab uprisings, finds new report

Egypt: social media was where people found information

Since the regime changes in Tunisia and Egypt, and other popular uprisings in Middle Eastern countries, there has been a lot of discussion about the importance of social media in mobilising protesters.

Now a new report by the Dubai School of Government addresses this question, among others, with the publication of the latest Arab Social Media Report.

It concludes that there is evidence that social networks are living up to their potential for having some ‘influence [on] a participatory governance role’, as the DSG delicately puts it.

The report finds that social media tools are ‘playing an arguably critical role in dramatic changes sweeping the Arab region’. It also notes that Arab Spring is having an impact on not just government, but also businesses in the region. Although there is no mention in the report of Vodafone (Vodafone creates an ad claiming it inspired Egyptian revolutio).

When Egytians were asked where they got news and information on events during the uprising, a staggering 94.3% said from social networks – more than any other medium.

As for language, English is the language of choice for most users in seven Arab countries, while French is the language of choice in five.  Arab countries, with Arabic the language of choice for most users in three Arab countries.

As well as being interesting from a political perspective, the DSG report has lots of useful information for anyone planning a social media campaign in any of the 22 Arab countries, as well as Israel, Turkey and Iran. This includes levels of penetration of Facebook, as well as some information on Facebook users ages, and genders.

It also has useful figures on the size of the social media markets in various Arab states and identifies the UAE with a Facebook penetration rate of almost 30% and more than 200,000 Twitter users as the top Gulf nation for social media usage.

The UAE has more than 2.4m Facebook users out of a possible 8.26m (total population).

While there might be more people in Saudi Arabia using Facebook, over four million users that’s out of a population of 27m giving it a total penetration figure of around 15%. The UAE on the other hand has more than 2.4m Facebook users out of a possible 8.26m (total population).

Behind the UAE is Qatar, the home of Al-Jazeera, it has more than 481,000 Facebook users from a a population of 1.7m. Next is the troubled state of Bahrain followed by and Kuwait (see slide below).

Facebook in the Arab World: A Snapshot

1.  The total number of Facebook users in the Arab world stands at 27,711,503 (as of April 5, 2011), up from 21,377,282 (January 5, 2011), having almost doubled since the same time last year (14,791,972 in April 2010).

2. The country average for Facebook user penetration (at the beginning of April) 2011,in the Arab region was just over 7.5%, up from just under 6% at the end of 2010.

3. The number of Facebook users in the Arab world increased by 30% in the first quarter of 2011.

4. GCC countries still dominate the top five Arab Facebook users as percentage of population, with Lebanon being the only exception. The UAE remains at the top of the Arab region.

5. Egypt still constitutes about a quarter of total Facebook users in the Arab region, and has added more users in the Q1-2011 than any Arab country, at close to 2 million new Facebook users between January 5 and April 5.

Twitter in the Arab world

As with Facebook, Turkey dominates in the number of Twitter users, with 217,627 users, followed by the UAE, which leads the Arab countries with 201,060 Twitter users. The top five Arab countries in terms of number of Twitter users are UAE, Qatar, Egypt, Saudi Arabia and Kuwait.

The top five generators of tweets in the Arab region are Kuwait, Qatar, UAE, Saudi Arabia and Egyp (the same top five as above). Consequently, to a certain extent, the size of a country’s active Twitter population correlates with the volume of tweets it generates. Over 60% of tweets within the first quarter of 2011 were generated by these five countries.

Some Twitter statistical highlights:

1. The estimated number of active Twitter users in the Arab region at the end of March 2011 was 1,150,292. Multiplying by the ratio of total users to active users above (an average of 200 million/35 million = 5.7), we get a total Twitter population of 6,567,280.

2. The estimated number of tweets generated in the Arab region in the first quarter of 2011 (Jan. 1 – March 30) by these “active users” was 22,750,000 tweets. The estimated number of daily tweets is 252,000 tweets per day, or 175 tweets a minute, or roughly three tweets a second.

3. The estimated number of daily tweets per active user in the Arab region in the first quarter of 2011 is 0.81
daily tweets.

Here’s a link to a PDF of the full report.

  • Nick Barthram

    Very interesting. For a very well thought out opposing view (i.e. that social networks are helping totalitarian governments clamp down) read ‘The Net Delusion: How Not to Liberate the World’ by Evgeny Morozov, fantastic thought-provoking book.

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