Digital Policy Council Identifies Facebook as the Tool of Choice For Political Leaders Seeking to Influence and Inform

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In the new report “Facebook: A Platform for 21st Century Politics, Winning Hearts and Minds on the World Wide Web,” The Digital Policy Council looks at political activism on the Internet, focusing on how social media is being used by moderate Muslim leaders across the Middle East and Asia to define 21st Century politics and what implications this may have on Western foreign policy.

The Gathering Storm

What impact will the use of the World Wide Web by Muslim leaders have on one-quarter of the world’s population?

“Facebook: A Platform for 21st Century Politics, Winning Hearts and Minds on the World Wide Web” is a new report from The Digital Policy Council (DPC), an international, non-partisan advocacy group that promotes good governance and sound policy-making around the world through the use of the Internet and Web 2.0.

With approximately 1.5 Billion people adhering to the principles of Islam, the report focuses one of today's burning questions, of great concern at home and across the West, what impact will the use of the World Wide Web by Muslim leaders have on one-quarter of the world’s population? The report investigates how leaders in the Middle East and broader Muslim world are using the Internet as an increasingly popular platform for political activism as both incumbent and opposition leaders along with many grassroots activists are starting to recognize the power of the Web.

Government 2.0
In a phenomenon known as ‘Government 2.0,’ political leaders are creating information programs on the Internet that provide an increased level of transparency that in turn enables citizens to collaborate more openly in the making of public policy. “Facebook: A Platform for 21st Century Politics” identifies progressive government leaders such as Lebanon's Prime Minister Saad Hariri who are harnessing the power of the Web for communication, information-sharing, and connecting with their local populace.

But what is of particular interest is that The Digital Policy Council’s research counters mainstream media reports that position the Internet as a vehicle for radical groups to recruit followers and disseminate anti-Western sentiment. The findings show a vast moderate voice online and an abundance of activism for reform and civil rights.

Muslims and the Internet
According to The Digital Policy Council’s recent research, there are 225 million Muslims online today and with a compound annual growth rate of 30% that Internet population is expected to swell to one billion by 2015. While some Muslims accept the Internet as a tool for better governance and political representation, others see it as a threat, and many entrenched Middle Eastern leaders have pursued aggressive defensive measures against its expansion.

A likely reason for this is the fact that Middle Eastern countries have traditionally been governed by highly centralized power structures, however as the report points out, with the old guard fading and a new generation of younger, more visionary leaders set to assume control - the relation between Muslim leaders and the Web is changing.

Facebook and the New Face Muslim Leaders
This change is demonstrated most vibrantly in Egypt where what is arguably the first online campaign for political control within the Middle East is in play. The race is between the ‘next generation’ of presidential candidates, Gamal Mubarak and Mohamed El Baradei, to win over the hearts and minds of the Egyptian people.

“Facebook: A Platform for 21st Century Politics” profiles current political leaders and their online activities across the Middle East and Asia. From Pakistan where ardent fans campaign to have their cricket hero, Imran Khan, elected into the Prime Minister's office, to how civil rights activist, Rebiya Kadeer, in China is using the web to rally Westerners in the fight against the plight of the Muslim minority there, as well as the online strategy employed by the Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak to bridge ethnic divides and create national unity. Of special interest is the popularity of bold Muslim women such as Queen Rania of Jordan, Zahra Ranavard in Iran, and HH Sheikha Mozah of Qatar acting as political advocates and collectively engaging a quarter million fans in online discourse.

Research shows a mutually beneficial use of the web by leaders and followers whereby “the public develops a personal relationship with leadership (and) leaders create an informed, engaged population – stakeholders in the country’s growth and success.”

Implications for the West
The research points to a critically needed policy change by the West and specifically the U.S. towards less restrictive technology licensing for Web 2.0 applications and a firm position against censorship online. The Digital Policy Council advocates a guarantee of open access to the Internet - a policy to embolden emerging leaders in the Middle East and throughout the Muslim World to harness social media as a tool to engage moderates, hasten reform and propel the region forward.

Download the report at http://www.digitaldaya.com/the_gathering_storm

About The Digital Policy Council™
The Digital Policy Council (DPC) is an international, non-partisan ‘think tank’ that promotes good governance and policy-making. The research and policy arm of the management consultancy firm Digital Daya™, DPC’s mission is the advancement of open discourse on issues of inclusive governance through the use of the Internet and Web 2.0.

Contact:
The Digital Policy Council
http://www.digitaldaya.com/
U.S. +1-202-379-4787
UAE +971-4-313-2086
Malaysia +60-3-2168-4201

email: public_relations(at)digitaldaya(dot)com

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Raana Hasnat
Digital Daya
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