Martina Larkin, senior director and head of the Network of Global Agenda Councils at the World Economic Forum, said that the rise of social media means that citizens are now looking for better collaboration and better communication from leaders.

Since the Arab Spring, the role that social media plays to communicate what citizens want to say has grown even stronger, putting the topic on the global agenda.

“The level of expectations is increasing for all parts of the society, from business, governments or NGOS.  These expectations are now fuelled by the rise of social media and the use of technology that allow us to compare and share what is happening in other countries.  Maybe the governments are not getting worse but now their weaknesses are getting more exposed,” said Yasser Jarrar, partner at Bain & Company, United Arab Emirates; and Young Global Leader; Global Agenda Council on the Future of Government.

Carl Bildt, former prime minister of Sweden, said that the world is changing because of social media pointing at 65% of the global population that will be access to 4G or 5G mobile broadband networks within the next 5 years.

“It means that in that 65% population of the world, nearly every person under 15 or 20 years of age, will have some sort of sophisticated mobile phone.  Affordable mobile phones are coming to the industry and it allows people to have them and social media will be in these platforms, which means that traditional media will have to change and governments will have to change because their interactions with their electorate will have to be through social media too,” he explained.

“Political leaders will have to communicate both ways: sending the message [political message] by social media and getting their message [citizens’ message] by social media. It is a true revolution that is coming with social media.  We are only at the beginning of it and we can probably understand the magnitude of it in the next few years,” Bildt added.

According to Analysys Mason, the addressable market for smartphone users will increase in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) and Sub-Saharan Africa as GDP per capita increases and mobile infrastructure improves, although smartphone penetration could remain low through 2018 at 34% and 26% for handsets, respectively.

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