Ahsan Iqbal highlights importance of social media in enhancing citizens’ engagement in different processes

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ISLAMABAD, Jul 9 (DNA):Minister for Planning, Development and Special Initiatives Professor Ahsan Iqbal on Tuesday highlighted the significance of social media, calling it an ‘essential tool’ in promoting citizen engagement, transparency and participation in government and political processes.

“Citizens’ engagement, transparency and participation in government and political processes have been revolutionized by social media platforms, enabling instant communication, mobilization, and dissemination of information,” he said.

The minister expressed these views while addressing an event titled “Digital Democracy in Action: Enhancing Engagement through Social Media,” organized by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP).

He said social media platforms provided spaces for dialogue, enabling people from all walks of life to voice their opinions, share concerns, and contribute to the national and political discourse, adding “The democratization of communication fosters a more inclusive and participatory political environment.”

As of 2023, Ahsan Iqbal said Pakistan had over 71 million social media users, representing a penetration rate of approximately 31 percent of the total population. “This widespread use signifies the potential reach and impact of digital engagement.”

He said social media had the potential to enhance government transparency and accountability through real-time updates and direct communication channels, under which government officials could keep the public informed about policy decisions, developments, and initiatives.

“Social media has proven to be a powerful tool for mobilizing communities and advocating for social change. It empowers grassroots activism and ensures that marginalized voices are heard,” the minister observed.

The minister also warned of the potential risks associated with social media, including misinformation and fake news, which could lead to public panic, social unrest and undermine trust in democratic institutions.

He cited a survey conducted in 2022, which found that almost two-thirds of Pakistanis encountered fake news on social media at least once a week.

Despite these challenges, he stressed for harnessing social media’s potential for educational outreach, mobilizing communities and advocating for social change.

He encouraged responsible social media usage to promote inclusivity, participation, and transparency in Pakistan’s political landscape.