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JPF Men a Leader Day-4 Social Media

JPF Men a Leader Day-4 Social Media

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Published by Ahmed El-Dorghamy

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Published by: Ahmed El-Dorghamy on Mar 03, 2012
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03/01/2014

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Middle East and North Africa Group Invitation Program 2012 - Leadership in Nationand Community Building
Date & Venue:
Feb. 22
nd
, 2012 (Day 4), Japan Foundation, Tokyo.
Topic of the day:
The Role of Social Media and Social Networking Service (SNS) in Crisis Response andReconstruction.
Speaker:
Mr. Daisuke Tsuda, journalist, writer and social entrepreneur.
Reflections:
“I do what I think and whoever wants to follow will follow”.
This must have been our favorite quote onthis day, which we found to be relevant to leaders today who have to respond swiftly to the rapidchanges and crises taking place in different countries for different reasons. Today on our fourth day inthe JPF MENA Leadership program, we listened to Mr. T
suda’s presentation on Social Me
dia and theimportant role it played in light of crisis response to the tsunami that hit Japan last year. While hereflected on this topic and explained his observational studies, we could see many clear similarities withthe situation in the MENA region, specifically during the revolutions in Tunis and Egypt and the activitiesof the civil society that followed. Main similarities were as follows:
 
 
How instant-communication tools brought people together faster to support each other,
 
How the tools assisted in rescuing people in danger or at risk,
 
How social media was the fastest in providing news and information, which was at times morerelevant than formal sources of news. This had also promoted cross-media cooperation,
 
How social media allowed communities to quickly deliver the same functions of thegovernment and institutions and how they soon became autonomous and self-dependant,
 
How leaders can use twitter and such tools instrumentally to provide many channels of communication and always be reachable. Queen Rania in Jordan for example is very active onTwitter, and she has been applauded for many initiatives that use social media such as previousYouTube competitions that she launched to promote tourism in Jordan,
 
Other similarities were found in the way social media drew international attention to theirrespective crisis and crowd-sourcing different types of support.This brings back memories of the revolution in Egypt that was catalyzed by social media and Facebookpages such as
Kollena Khaled Said 
, and many other groups. Also attendants from Jordan rememberedthe use of social media in successful campaigns against destructive development projects such as thewell-known case of the twitter-led environmental campaign against the Military Academy constructionplans in the Bargesh Forest in northern Jordan among other many examples. The idea of the cross-media cooperation phenomena was also very similar to many examples in the MENA region such aswww.7iber.com:a tool for bloggers and citizen journalists in Jordan that largely feeds on its activity ontwitter and Facebook.
 
Attendants from Tunis on the other hand drew attention to a different aspect of social media;discussions were raised about the role of social media in promoting undeserved stardom. An examplegiven according to one of the attendants was Emna Ben Jemaa, an avid blogger later appointed as ahigh-profile spokesperson in the government due to her wide base of followers on her differentchannels of online social networking services. Some see her position and her recognition as exaggeratedand not well deserved. Mr. Tsuda explained how this is expected, and similar undeserved stardom canalso be found in the sphere of social media in Japan and would be expected anywhere. Many othersimilarities of the pros and cons of social media and its use were discussed.Other challenges to the use of social media that Japan shares with the MENA region is the inaccurate,confusing or outdated information, etc. One example is when a distress call is sent out but is soonresolved. The outdated message remains in the space of social media and adds to the confusion of theinformation. In Japan, we learnt that 50% of calls for help made on Twitter were based on correctinformation.The virtues of social media however, in times of crisis, far surpass the challenges.A few differences in the role of social media and its use were also observed as we discussed the topic.Some differences are as follows:
 
Higher rates of penetration of social media in Japan compared to MENA region despite highpenetration of mobile phones and computers in the MENA region. However rates sharply rose inthe MENA region after the revolution, and increased Arabic content showed that the socialmedia is being used in a wider range of classes and educational backgrounds and not only theearly-adopters who predominantly chose English in their communication.
 
Mr. Tsuda explained that social media is still confined to crisis response and management butnot yet in social activities, unlike in the MENA region where there is very high dependencealready on social media as a trustworthy tool in community and nation building. In fact, evengovernmental organizations have been using Facebook as the main channel of communicationwith citizens.It was also interesting to listen to other examples of leadership in community activities such as aJapanese social entrepreneur who established a volunteer match-making website to connectvolunteering opportunities with community needs. Similar initiatives are also expanding in the MENAregion, such as www.kheirna.com in Egypt, a social enterprise that is incubated by Nahdet El-Mahrousa NGO.
Kheirna.com
does exactly the same functions as the example shown in Japan and is having anequally active role in catalyzing civic engagement in Egypt after the revolution.The most pleasing thought as we listened to the presentation is that youth of today, everywhere, evenwith such different cultures, are the same in so many ways and are facing the same challenges and aresupporting and inspiring one another. We are all making sure that we give meaning to our lives and havea positive impact on our communities as we embrace innovative tools and ideas and respond quickly toour big challenges.

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