July 14, 2009
Posted: 917 GMT
Dubai, UAE - Just a few weeks ago, Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid al Maktoum, the Vice President of UAE and Ruler of Dubai, joined the global social networking site Facebook. With close to 50,000 fans, Sheikh Mohammed is one of a growing number of public figures, celebrities and politicians who have recently tapped the worldwide web to communicate with the public.
He has turned his “wall”, a space usually used between friends to leave tongue-in-cheek messages to each other, into a discussion forum on issues of public interest.
Recently Sheikh Mohammed asked "Should the new academic year start during Ramadan or after the Eid holiday?" After surveying the multiple Facebook comments and consulting other experts, the Ministry of Education decided to postpone the start of the 2009-10 school year, until after Eid. Sheikh Mohammed then updated his Facebook status thanking the public for their opinions.
While Sheikh Mohammed’s page also serves a more traditional purpose – carrying personal details about his family, hobbies and interests – as with most things in Dubai, his page isn't really about him. Rather, it signals the Emirate’s continued support for creative modern approaches to improved communication. It's another way to foster dialogue and promote a sense of community in this diverse, cosmopolitan place. And it's also a step toward a more accessible leader. One person commented "Wow-my first friend who is a leader of a nation!".
Facebook is not the only social networking site that Sheikh Mohammed has joined. Like Queen Rania of Jordan before him, he has set up a twitter account. In keeping with his facebook page his most recent tweet says "will be able to confirm in 10 days time, the date when Private and British schools will be reopening in the UAE."
I now wonder if Sheikh Mohammed also skypes?
Before starting her internship at CNN Dubai, Jieun worked for Goldman Sachs in Hong Kong and the United States. She graduated from Brown University with a degree in International Relations.
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