Saudi Arabia has made some progress on e-government and administrative simplification over the past decade, being credited by Global Competitiveness Report 2019 with a judiciary at the level of US and UK. However, this alleged progress is offset by its performance on e-citizenship, budget transparency, trade openness and freedom of the press, where it is on the bottom of its income group. There is considerable room to progress without major political change simply by pushing more decisively the agenda of e-government on the model of United Arab Emirates.
Social media has been increasingly used as a vehicle for raising awareness about corruption and other abuses in Saudi Arabia. Platforms such as Youtube and Twitter have become a means of spreading comments and satirical videos on episodes of corruption or undue political influence, topics that have always been considered taboo in the country. This has given a new dimension to freedom of expression in a country where conventional media still faces severe restrictions.
Some demographic aspects of Saudi Arabia are favorable for this new dynamic. The population is very young, with about 70 per cent under 30 years of age, and internet penetration is around 40 per cent. This makes a large pool of potential followers of the online comedy shows, bloggers and twitter users that use the internet to express their criticism of government officials and even members of the royal family.
One of the latest online hits in the country is a video mocking the Ministry of Commerce for its ambigious enforcement of business regulations, which usually favors powerful businessmen. An anonymous writer on Twitter has also become popular with posts about misconduct by members of the royal family.
The government has already felt the impact of this intensification of the online political debate. Legislation that extends restrictions to traditional media also to blogs and social media platforms has been introduced, and analysts believe that government monitoring of online media will be strengthened in the near future.
For more details read the article “Social media skewer corruption in Saudi Arabia” on vancouversun.com. The picture shown above is featured in the article and is credited to Susan Baaghil/Reuters.