UN leverages power of social media for development in Asia-Pacific

Social media is becoming an increasingly important tool to reach and engage people in development initiatives. By the end of 2014 there will be an estimated 3 billion Internet users worldwide, with two-thirds from the developing world. Mobile-broadband subscriptions are also expected to reach 2.3 billion globally with fifty-five per cent in developing countries and close to 1 billion in the Asia-Pacific region.

Recognizing the need to leverage social media for socio-economic development, the United Nations Asian and Pacific Training Centre for Information and Communication Technology for Development (UN-APCICT/ESCAP) this week held a regional workshop on Social Media for Development in Incheon, Republic of Korea.

The opening session of the workshop was attended by over 130 people from 31 countries, including more than 80 university students as part of UN-APCICT’s efforts to engage youth. The session brought together both today and tomorrow’s leaders and provided students with the opportunity to be inspired by the current use of social media in development. The event also served as a platform to promote the perspectives of young people as leaders in development.

“Youth are among the most active users of social media and using social media has definitely helped us connect with young people,” explained Ms. Ediola Pashollari, Secretary General of the World Assembly of Youth. “The workshop was a great opportunity to enhance understanding on how social media can help promote their involvement in key development areas such as employment, environment, health, community development and leadership training,” she added.

Workshop participants heard how in the field of agriculture, for example, social media has helped to increase farmers' access to timely and relevant information and marketing advice. It has also helped improve the delivery of public services by facilitating two-way communication between government and citizens.

Experts and practitioners from governments, development organizations, civil society, academia and the private sector shared their knowledge and presentations at the workshop, including representatives from the non-profit human development organization FHI360, the mobile messenger KakaoTalk and the Internet search portal Naver, as well as senior officials from Bhutan, Indonesia, Laos and Republic of Korea. The presentations offered perspectives and insight from the field, with a focus on how social media is being used in their respective organizations and its impact on development work.

Capacity building at the government level to push forward policies, engaging stakeholders and creating an enabling environment for social media applications in development were among the key priorities identified at the workshop. The importance of promoting and educating people on the responsible and positive use of social media was also highlighted.

The workshop marked the official launch of the training module on Social Media for Development, established under UN-APCICT’s flagship ICT capacity building programme for government officials and policymakers, the Academy of ICT Essentials for Government Leaders.