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E-governance Still Needs To Go a Long Way – Arab News

08 Jul
via Stuart Miles/freedigitalphotos.net/not related to Arab News

via Stuart Miles/freedigitalphotos.net/not related to Arab News

Government services in this part of the world are facing so many challenges; focusing on speed, efficiency, and lifting the hefty hand of bureaucracy on the governmental processes are few examples.

Going smart or transforming to e-government in the days of the Internet and communication networks is a dream most of the governments in the region are chasing with different degrees of success. 

And when the social media networks came, with its booming popularity especially among the youth, governments decided to try it as a new channel to relate to the public. 

Unfortunately, according to the report “Citizen Engagement and Public Services in the Arab World: The Potential of Social Media” published by Mohamed bin Rashid School of Government recently, the image of government services on social media does not look that bright.

In the introduction, the report emphasized on the growth of social media consumption globally, with Facebook leading the way with 1.28 billion monthly active users (79 percent of them accessing the platform from mobile devices), by the end of the first quarter of 2014. 

Twitter is also booming with 255 million monthly active users for the same period (78 percent from mobile devices). 


In the Arab world, apparent growth by 49 percent on Facebook, 54 percent on Twitter and 79 percent on LinkedIn were reported since May 2013.

Now, back to the government services on social media, a staggering 2 percent of respondents reported visiting social media channels as “a first resort for finding information on public services.”

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Using Social Media for a Noble Cause – Arab News

01 Jul
via Stuart Miles/freedigitalphotos.net/not related to Arab News

via Stuart Miles/freedigitalphotos.net/not related to Arab News

A couple of years ago, a lady on my Twitter timeline came up with a novel idea to celebrate her birthday — she donated for a charitable cause through a web portal. She kept sending reminders and updates about her set goal of $100 paid to assist in providing water for villages in Africa.

The idea was catchy, the cause was worthy and the organization collecting the funds was authentic with validated background, sadly however, I’ve never seen such an idea catching up, getting recognition and popularity on the local social media scene.

Our view of charity has not been changed for so long; despite the rapid social and technological shifts we had witnessed in our daily lives, charity remained exclusively in giving to the poor either directly in the form of money, food or clothing, or through the handful of charity organizations we have in the country. 

The way these organizations operate either in management or fundraising offered great resistance to time and change; for them, there is no way but the old way, as long as “some” money is coming in, all things are OK. Obviously, they are missing great opportunities, untapped chances available to them online and through social media.

A recent report about online donations in the United States, published on Forbes, shows that in 2013, more than $822 million was raised online via 8.3 million donations. The report shows that the top donating cities are where young, wealthy and tech savvy individuals live. For example, Seattle, the city topping the list in terms of given donations, has given $53,542 per 1,000 residents, that’s about $53 per person. Such number demonstrates a very important feature of online donations; due to the huge number of potential donors who can be reached through different social media platforms, even small amounts of gifts can make a difference.

 
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Understanding the True Spirit of Ramadan – Arab News

24 Jun
via maple/freedigitalphotos.net/not related to Arab News

via maple/freedigitalphotos.net/not related to Arab News

A Canadian Muslim friend, let’s call him “M,” spent the last Ramadan in Saudi Arabia — his first-ever Ramadan in the Kingdom. It was a different experience; he would not label it as good or bad, “it was just different,” he insists.

The first jolt of surprise came when his office announced the new working hours during the holy month. He did see that coming, as a Muslim back home, he is used to fasting the long daylight hours during the Canadian summer days. Why an eight hours shift was reduced to six was beyond his comprehension! He tried his peers and subordinates first, the only common reaction he got from all of them was the sheer surprise directed at the question itself: “Of course the working hours should be cut, it is Ramadan my friend!” 
Most of his colleagues responded not noticing that they were only paraphrasing his question into an answer. When he pressed further, he got diverse answers from “We would be exhausted without food and water and tea all day long, man!” to “Of course to get more time dedicated to worshiping and reciting Qur’an.”

Being the practical person he is, such answers did not cut it for him, what exhaustion they were talking about? He would understand if their job required any kind of fieldwork, but it was nothing but air-conditioned offices and cushioned chairs. Getting more time to worship, why not thinking about doing their jobs as a way of worshipping nonetheless? So he decided to go to the management. Of course he would not try to question the cultural norms of the country. He knows how sensitive such matters are. Nonetheless, he wanted to talk business. Many of the deadlines and projects he committed to deliver would be impacted by such changes and he would like to define some priorities. The director’s response was, “No, all targets stay, no compromises!” 

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Cyberspace is Not as Simple as it Appears – Arab News

21 Jun
via posterize/freedigitalphotos.net/not related to Arab news

via posterize/freedigitalphotos.net/not related to Arab news

WHEN you come to think of it, the idea of Twitter is pretty simple, 140 characters of short and repetitive burst of ideas generated by millions of people. But don’t be fooled by the simplicity of the platform, It is as complicated as life itself.

It is full of social and psychological behaviors that tell a lot about us as human beings, it represents us in the way we are, true and without frills; at times we are social butterflies, looking for connections, striving for groups, searching for tribes of people thinking and acting like us, and sometimes, self-centered individuals, having no doubts that the whole world, with all the “followers,” is revolving around us.

I have been reminded of such different phenomena on Twitter in the past few days. First, there is the World Cup, the biggest sports event on the planet. Expectedly, it will be consuming a huge portion of your timeline in these few weeks. With each team, with each game, with each goal, people are streaming their feelings, observations and comments. They cheer for the winner, or make fun of it. They attack the loser, or sympathize with it. They are simply fans of the game, looking for others sharing their passion. That is one representation of our behavior on Twitter, finding groups, tribes of people sharing our interests.

On the other hand, I was a bit surprised by the non-fans’ behavior. They were criticizing the constant tweets about the games, tweeting back their annoyance, and keep reminding everyone that the world is full of more important issues other than football! It is a free world, I know, but for me, that is a representation of the other behavior we have on the platform; the self-indulgence, thinking that what we like, and what we love, should be the only thing out there. If it does not interest me, it should not interest anybody else!

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The 3S’s To Know at Workplace – Arab News

17 Jun
via Pong/freedigitalphotos.net/not related to Arab News

via Pong/freedigitalphotos.net/not related to Arab News

Last week, there was an article in the New York Times by an Italian writer who was asked to explain Americans to a group of factory workers in the south of Italy. His task was specific; there are Americans coming to help the factory after commencing a joint venture with one of the American companies, and since he lived part of his life in the US, he was expected to provide some insight on how Italian workers should deal with the Americans. 

The writer abbreviated his approach in the “3 Cs” to understand how to work with Americans, you should know that “they are obsessed by 3 Cs: Control, Competition, and Choreography,” and he went on explaining what did he mean by those words in the article.

Now, I thought of doing the same here, if you are coming to work in Saudi Arabia, what should you know about Saudis in the workplace. Mind you, it is a very popular question. For this country looks, to a lot of people around the world, like a mysterious box full of wonder and magic, the wonder of history and traditions, and the magic of money and oil. Like any other place in the world, its image is a blend of facts, lies, and stereotypes.

Trying to summarize its business environment could be interpreted as another attempt into stereotyping; there are many ways and schools of thought when it comes to doing business in the Kingdom, but there are still the average ways that color most of its business environment. And this average is what I will be addressing and summarizing in the 3 Ss: Seniority, System, and Singularity.

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Formal Emails Etiquette – By Hanan Al Gamdi

13 Jun
via David Castillo Dominici/freedigitalphotos.net

via David Castillo Dominici/freedigitalphotos.net

Many newcomers to business field struggle to find their way to write formal e-mails,  they pick it up through trial and error, making some misfortunate mistakes throughout the way. Taking the following tips into consideration would save you some time and enhance your skills in writing professional electronic correspondences:
Formality: while writing business e-mails, keep in mind that e-mails could be used as a legal evidence, way of documentation for agreements and/or incidents, or they could be simply forwarded to a third party who doesn’t personally know you! Therefore, writing in formality would always be in your favor. Formal e-mails -in contrary to informal correspondences- requires formal but not dry language, objective content, proper introduction, and sequence control constructions; these factors form a solid and professional e-mail even when sent to a friend as long as it is in a work context.
Last but not least, picking the correct title is highly important. Do whatever it takes to make sure you are using the correct title before sending your e-mail; search previous e-mails, use google or ask your colleagues.
Efficient e-mails: an official e-mail doesn’t have to be complicated. Simple language and direct approach is usually more efficient.
Tools: using bullet points and action plan tables make it easier to be referred to through a second reading. Highlighting time, date and location in bold or different color is an effective tool to deliver your message promptly.
Recipients: How many times did you compose an e-mail wondering who should be on Cc and Bcc ? Cc stands for Carbon Copy while Bcc stands for Blind Carbon Copy.
To put it simply, follow these scenarios to eliminate the confusion; imagine that you have the chance to say what you are composing in a physical meeting and use:
To: the persons you are addressing the topic to.
CC: the persons who are attending or should be attending the meeting and have relevant roles; your direct manager and/or your assistant if they have to follow up the matter, each recipient’s director and/or assistant if they have following up roles as well, colleagues or attendees who had participated in a way or another to this particular subject or they have potential role in the future.
BCC: means that this recipient e-mail address is not going to be shown to other recipients. You may bcc the persons who are involved but don’t want their e-mail to be shared or to be dragged in further correspondences like organization’s CEO. Or for a group of individuals who don’t know each others and you should keep their e-mail addresses confidential; for instance, sending a general e-mail to many clints. On another hand, a wicked sender may use this option to report to certain recipient the subject without addressing him/her directly.
Internal vs. external: sending an internal e-mail may not require a long introduction for the addressed topic or project but sending an e-mail to an external recipient is different and requires a brief introduction on who you are, what role you are playing in the project, and two-lines about why you are contacting him/her. it’s even recommended to explain the organization’s main field or vision.
Many people miss introducing themselves and their topic in first e-mail they sent especially if there was already a phone call; you may start with “According to our earlier conversation,” then rephrase in brief what you had agreed on the phone.
Attachment: must be mentioned with a brief of how it is relevant to your e-mail or what should be done with it, for instance, “find guidlines in the attached file”, “kindly print attached file, fill in and submit to …” or “use attached file to ….”. If there is more than one attached file, you could list them in bullet points.
Signature: must be added in the correct structure with the same exact spelling according to Human Resources Department in your organization; Name, Title, Department, Division (if necessary) and Organization Name followed by Contact Info; Telephone Number, E-mail, Organization Address and website. All info must be in caps first letters. Organization’a logo is preferably to be included.
And that is it; simple, yet fatal to how your emails are received.
****
Mrs. Al Gamdi is no stranger to this blog; she had contributed to it back in 2012 (Buying Time). Always a pleasure to have her in here, always interesting topics she tackles. – Saad
 

CIA Tweeting its Funny Side to The World – Arab News

10 Jun
via adamr/freedigitalphotos.net/not related to Arab News

via adamr/freedigitalphotos.net/not related to Arab News

They knew how to play it smart; they were funny and relevant. All it took them was one tweet, less than 140 characters to gather followers at an unprecedented speed. In about five hours, around 200,000 followed them and more than 440,000 in the first 24 hours.

You probably know whom I am talking about; it is the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) of the United States. The first tweet went like that: “We can neither confirm nor deny that this is our first tweet.” It proved to be a small stone that generated waves on the social media platform.

Apparently, Americans are responding to funny tweets. That is not only a guess, a report generated by Ipsos Open Thinking Exchange noted that “Americans are more likely than the average global citizen to share funny rather than important content,” as published on Forbes. A similar study on Saudi Twitter users would not yield that different results, OK that is a guess, but it is backed by simple evidence, most of Saudi stars on the social network are those whom some would like to call “funny.” That is understandable in my opinion, many consider Twitter as an escape, an opportunity to change the mood and break away from the routine. In a bid to do so, they prefer something light and funny.

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Waiting for our Team to Win World Cup – Arab News

09 Jun
via http://bostinno.streetwise.co/not related to Arab News

via http://bostinno.streetwise.co/not related to Arab News

Within a few days, most of the people across the world will be gathering around their television sets to watch 32 nations competing for the World Cup on the playgrounds of Brazil.

Depending on one’s perspective, call it the magic of or the craziness for football that brings the whole world together. After every four years, history is updated and new records are made. This is a special event when victories are lived, defeats suffered, people shed tears of joy and pain and screams and hugs are shared. Tales of love and glory are born on these playing fields and fame and fortune follow thereafter.

It is fascinating to see that while the whole world is passionately awaiting the start of the games, Brazilians themselves are not. A research by Pew Research Center (published in the New York Times) found that 61 percent of the respondents see the World Cup as bad for the country because it is taking funds from health and education projects. Only 34 people consider this mega event as an economic opportunity. Furthermore, after about a year of huge protests denouncing the World Cup organization, 47 percent consider those demonstrations good for bringing to light important issues facing the country, while 48 percent consider it damaging to the country’s image internationally. 35 percent see the World Cup as a good chance to enhance the country’s image, 39 percent expect it to worsen the image even further, and 23 percent were of the view that it would make no difference.

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Watch Out What You Do in the Cyberspace! – Arab News

03 Jun
via Stuart Miles/freedigitalphotos.net/not related to Arab News

via Stuart Miles/freedigitalphotos.net/not related to Arab News

IN the days of the Internet, it seems that every step we make, every word we say, every photo we take, every opinion we express and every situation go through gets immortalized. Once it reaches the Internet, it is destined to stay, either to perpetuate something good you have done, or to scandalize you for years to come.

Such kind of information, about us, our lives and those around us, is inhibiting the dark shadows of the Internet. Nesting calmly under the warmth of a server somewhere out there, it could be few kilometers away, or way across the globe. And the tools to fetch that information, to track it and to hunt for it deep in the digital world to bring them back into light are search engines.

Go ahead and write your name in any of the popular search engines and you would be directed to links attached to you; your Twitter or Facebook accounts, and maybe some news links to statements you had made few years ago about a project you were supervising but never found its way to daylight.

In one way or another; Internet will never forget!

However, Europeans do not seem to like that. Around the mid of May, the European Union’s Court of Justice has ruled that Google must listen and even comply, when regular individuals ask for certain links to be removed. A surprising decision that Google has received with “disappointment.” Out of no where, the search engine giant could find itself overwhelmed with thousands of requests to remove links and articles from its search results for personal reasons.

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Don’t Believe Everything You Read or Watch – Arab News

02 Jun
via imagerymajestic/freedigitlphotos.net/not related to Arab News

via imagerymajestic/freedigitlphotos.net/not related to Arab News

The word “study” has a glamorous ring to it. Put it in a sentence, followed by a name of a western university and to many people, it becomes a universal truth or not that different from Newton’s laws of motion.

When catchy statements like “Diet soda helps weight loss; Diet Soda is better than water for weight loss” start to fly around, you should instantly feel that there is something fishy. The study contradicts some very basic knowledge that it is next to impossible to take it at its face value; how a carbonated, chemically altered beverage be better than a basic human need like water.

Of course the next step would be trying to go a bit deeper beyond the headline and try to figure out how the study reached its results. That did not happen around here of course. I cannot totally blame the individuals behind the flood of Tweets and WhatsApp messages sharing it, but I would certainly blame the news channels.

The study that lasted for 12 weeks over 300 participants does not give much. It is more of an experiment rather than a detailed, well evident study. It goes like this: 300 obese participants listed in a weight control program were randomly divided into two groups; one group was asked to avoid drinking any beverage other than water, and the second group was allowed to consume diet sodas besides water. At the end of the study, the group allowed to consume the diet sodas had lost about 13 pounds (close to 6 kilos) on an average, and the water- only group had lost around 9 pounds (around 4 kilos) on an average, and … that’s it. The study gives nothing more to describe its findings.

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