Mapping Digital Media in the UAE

Free «Mapping Digital Media in the UAE» Essay Sample

The UAE is a country that has invested heavily in the development of media. It has a well-developed infrastructure for the traditional as well as digital media. The country has about 70 TV channels, and over 90% of the population is able to use the internet. Additionally, nearly all citizens are the subscribers of various mobile operators. The availability of the internet has promoted the use of social media and development of digital activism among others. This paper will explore the use of digital media for the purposes such as social media, e-commerce, digital activism, and its regulation. The paper will also look into the current and projected development of the digital media in this country.

Media Consumption: The Digital Factor

The UAE has developed traditional and digital media groundwork, so phone and internet penetration is high. The state owned Etisatat is dominant in the field and it provides fixed line, mobile network internet, and cable (Rashid bin Muhammad School of Government, 2014).

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Digital Take-up

In the end of 2014, 8,807,226 people, accounting for 93% of the population, were internet users (Internet Worlds Stats, n.d).

Media Preferences

As of the end of 2012, the UAE had over 3,442,940 Facebook accounts; Facebook was the dominant social site (Internet Worlds Stats, n.d).  In 2012, an average of 70% of the population spent close to 4 hours online every day (Bin Amro, Al Mansoori, & Al Hashemi, 2013). E-commerce thrives, although the economy depends on conventional commerce (El-Gohary, & Eid, 2013).

Digital Media and Public or State-Administered Broadcasters

Public Service and State Institutions

Both traditional and new media platforms coexist in the UAE. The county has a very vibrant traditional media with over 70 television channels (Meera, 2011). To promote the media, the government has initiated Dubai Media City that offers a tax-free regime for the investors willing to setup media houses (Walsh & Bentinck, 2016). Major media houses broadcast in Arabic or English. Around 13 channels are state-owned and they compete with the privately owned media broadcasters (Walsh & Bentinck, 2016). Most of these media channels have developed digital platforms. Independent and global digital media sites compete with the state administered broadcasters. However, digital and old media outlets are not allowed to criticize the religion or the government (Walsh & Bentinck, 2016).


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Public Service Provision

The government offers services through digital platforms. Such ranges of services include health and education. They are offered through the government portal mygov.ae through which citizens could communicate with the government. All levels of government offer some services in digital platforms. According to Al Khan (2014), the UAE government was the third globally in digital services in 2014.

Digital Media and Society

Digital media has become an important aspect of society in the UAE. According to Internet World Statistics (n.d.), over 90% of the UAE citizens use the internet. Each citizen has about 2 mobile providers subscriptions, with the two most dominant mobile service providers being Du and Etisalat (Rashid bin Muhammad School of Government, 2014).  Society has highly embraced digital media for communication, commerce, and other economic activities. E-mail has become an acceptable means of official communication, with 38% of the population being common users of e-mail (Hudson & Zimmermann, 2015). Some locals use social medial accounts to advertise products while others use them to communicate.

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User-Generated Content (UGC)

In the UAE, citizens are not only the consumers of information but they have also become an important source of it, and over 40% of all businesses have an online presence product promotion and public relations (Aljenaibi, 2015). In addition to these, numerous bloggers dedicate their work to the discussion of art, politics, and education. Thus, for instance, many of the social media users are concerned that some traditional media houses may portray their region and their country in bad light; therefore, some bloggers have come up to give the UAE a balanced coverage in terms of economic, social, and religious life (Aljenaibi, 2015).  In addition to bloggers, digital media outlets and firms, there are citizens who share stories and photos of events, architecture, social, and personal events (Aljenaibi, 2015).

Digital Activism

Internet activism/cyber activism refers to the application of electronic media, for instance, the social media to communicate to the masses people to raise awareness of a course that the activist feels is important (Hudson & Zimmermann, 2015). In the UAE, many activists have utilized social media for various courses. Digital activists in this country have focused majorly on human rights abuses such as detentions, infringement of freedoms of expression and assembly, and forced disappearances (Hudson & Zimmermann, 2015). Some activists have also criticized the country for infringing on the rights of foreign workers. The social media has given the activists an opportunity to communicate to large numbers of people (Hudson & Zimmermann, 2015).

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Policies, Laws, and Regulators

The UAE government’s policy towards the social media is very similar to that of the traditional media. By 2011, the country had close to 60% of population using the internet (Benlamri, 2012). Therefore, the government started seeing a need to have a clear policy on the social media. As for the traditional media, the social media was to be used to promote the common good of society and the country. It was noted that some groups had a tendency to pass what would be considered as pervasive information, and the authorities were empowered to prevent this from happening.

Policies and Laws

An internet access authority policy (IAM) was established under the Telecommunication Regulation Authority (TRA) (Walsh & Bentinck, 2016). The TRA was mandated to screen internet content and take action on website operators who violated the IAM policy. In general terms, IAM policy prohibits the content designed to hack people’s devices, offensive material, or materials promoting terrorism. However, the definition of restricted materials was vague and it left loopholes for abuse of the policy (Walsh & Bentinck, 2016).

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Other laws such as the federal publishing law written in 1980 and the Cyber-Crime law of 2006 are also utilized to regulate the digital media. These laws apply even in what is referred to as ‘free zones’. The TRA and law enforcement agencies are mandated to ensure that these laws and other regulations are followed.


Digital media regulators in the UAE are the TRA and the local and federal law enforcement agencies.

Government Interference

The government has been seen on many instances to interfere with the citizens’ right to free speech, especially when such speech is deemed as criticizing the government (Hudson & Zimmermann, 2015). Additionally, the activists who use the digital media to raise concerns about workers’ rights, freedom of assembly or expression often find themselves on the wrong side of the law, some suffering detention while others are denied an opportunity to enter the country (Hudson & Zimmermann, 2015).

Media Today

Digital media in the UAE continues to grow at a rate well above the global average.  Additionally, the rate of access to the internet and mobile devices continues to increase. The economy also continues to grow, providing the greater growth of the firms that use digital platforms for their online presences. The government also invests in providing the environment for the growth of media (Al-Suwaidi, 2013). This gives the opportunities for digital media to develop. On the other hand, the government may need to reduce the level of control of the digital media to increase the range of its application; especially, as far as user generated content is concerned. Consequently, activists and members of the public need to be responsible while using social media.

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Media Tomorrow

The UAE media today is largely successful. If the same trend is maintained, the media may continue to be more successful in the future.


As seen throughout the paper, digital media is highly developed in the UAE. This has been occasioned by the high rate of mobile phone and internet penetration. Citizens of this country utilize the digital media for social communications, e-commerce, and digital activism. As seen in the paper, the government has come in to regulate the digital media. In other instances, the government has been seen to interfere with the media.

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