A first-of-its-kind survey conducted by the Governance and Innovation Programme of the Dubai School of Government (DSG), a teaching and research institution focusing on public policy, has found that social media  holds the potential to play an important role in boosting skillsets, enhancing employment prospects and supporting entrepreneurship across the Arab world. 
The survey, which examined the effectiveness of social media in promoting social advancement, job creation and business growth across the Arab region, collated data from close to 5,000 respondents in Bahrain, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Lebanon, Oman, Egypt and Jordan.
Under the patronage of His Excellency Saqr Ghobash Saeed Ghobash, UAE Minister of Labor, the results of the ground breaking survey were announced in a policy forum held at DSG’s headquarters. The survey comes as the result of a partnership between SAP AG (NYSE:SAP) and DSG. HE Tariq Hilal Lootah, DSG’s Executive President made welcoming remarks and opened the public policy forum with official representatives from the Mohammed Bin Rashid Establishment for Small and Medium Enterprises (SME) Development, The Executive Council in Dubai, The Executive Office, the Prime Minister’s Office; in addition to Sam Alkharrat, Managing Director, SAP Middle East and North Africa (MENA); and Fadi Salem, Director of the Governance and Innovation Program, Dubai School of Government; and numerous representatives from government and private sector entities.
The report revealed that social media can have a dramatic impact on job creation and employment opportunities. Nearly 80 per cent of the respondents said that technology could help provide access to critical job market data. In addition to 76% respondents claiming that it is beneficial in forming job-yielding partnerships and opportunities, 75% saw it as a conduit for a new virtual job market. Meanwhile, 71 per cent claimed they would rely on social media to find their next job.
Social media’s influence in the workplace was also seen as pervasive and positive. Here, 86 per cent noted it increased intra-agency collaboration, 85% welcomed its ability to connect with customers and 85% said it inspired innovation. Furthermore, 78% felt that social media’s powerful connective credentials can markedly enhance trust levels among the workforce.
The report also hailed social media as a critical tool for start-ups across the Arab world, with 86% agreeing it contributed to business success. Among the reasons cited were its multifaceted marketing potential (90%), a capacity to tap into wider markets (86%), substantial customer engagement options (85%) and its overall potential to raise awareness and instill entrepreneurial mindsets (84%).
DSG’s report has highlighted that social media is viewed as a facilitator of significant educational advantages. While 84% respondents said students would benefit from utilizing social media in developing entrepreneurial skills, 76 affirmed they use social media and ICT tools to acquire such business abilities.
The primary drawbacks and negative connotations attributed to social media use in business largely center on concerns regarding the regulatory environment. People and businesses do not feel protected in the absence of appropriate laws regarding intellectual property, privacy and copyright, according to the report.
Looking ahead, 81% of respondents agreed that national policies and guidelines would help facilitate better use of social media at work, and inspire entrepreneurial opportunities. The survey participants additionally called for educational reform to integrate such technologies in the classroom.
Fadi Salem, Director of the Governance and Innovation Program, DSG, and co-author of the report, said: “Despite having few stable economies in the region today, the most active part of the Arab population; the youth, is increasingly feeling empowered. Our ongoing research over the past two years has shown that close to 50 million Arabs are actively connected to social media and primarily use the platforms to change social and political realities in their countries. The ground-breaking research offers insight into new horizons for economic empowerment of the Arab youth. It is essential for policy makers and businesses to understand this emerging phenomenon and its impact on their societies and markets. We are delighted to team-up with business leaders such as SAP on our research projects.”
Sam Alkharrat, Managing Director, SAP MENA, said: “In a dynamic, rapidly evolving region such as the Middle East, where young, tech-savvy people are seeking to forge new opportunities, it is critical that companies use social media to engage both existing and aspiring employees. Harnessing value from the flow of big data generated from social media is critical for driving greater operational efficiency, cutting costs, boosting profits and unlocking new routes to innovation.”
“SAP helps customers tap into social media data to uncover insights and revenue opportunities they would never think to look for or are unlikely to find using traditional research methods. The DSG study reaffirms our belief that platforms of this nature have a stunning impact on the job market, the up-skilling of talent, as well as SME creation and empowerment.”
In addition to providing unprecedented insight into regional social media trends, results from the DSG study will form a key part of an ongoing feasibility study by SAP MENA for creating a cutting-edge, project-enabling ICT platform to boost sustainable job creation across the region. The pioneering platform will improve leadership decisions related to job creation by aggregating, processing and presenting big datausing social media and established SAP solutions such as the SAP e-Recruiting application, the SAP Enterprise Learning environment, the SAP Learning Solution, and the SAP CRM rapid-deployment solution for citizen contact centers.
Racha Mourtada, Research Associate with the Governance and Innovation Program, DSG and lead author of the report, said: “Respondents were overwhelmingly positive about the role of social media in engaging governments and citizens for creating policies that benefit businesses and start-ups. It is also commonly believed that the platforms serve as an equaliser across different gender and age groups, with 34% to 40% claiming that social media made them feel more empowered to create their own employment opportunities, or to influence social change.”
Dubai School of Government was established in 2005 to promote good governance through enhancing the region’s capacity for effective public policy. Towards this end, DSG collaborates with regional and global institutions for delivering strategic research and training programs.