By Elizabeth Daley*

Society has only begun to experiment with the applications of social media in the public’s interest. As more citizens adopt mobile devices and social networks in their everyday routines, the potential for social media to play a larger role in realms such as public health and safety grows.

Elizabeth daley In recent years, driving accidents have become a leading cause of deaths in the MENA region. Meanwhile, there has been little use of social media to communicate with the public.

I’m very pleased to share that our initiative to create socially impactful messages on safe driving for the MENA region was presented last October 21st at the World Economic Forum Special Meeting on Economic Growth and Job Creation in the Arab World. Over two years, the Global Agenda Council on Media, Information and Entertainment worked with Yahoo to support students  from the Red Sea Institute of Cinematic Arts in Aqaba interested in developing messages about road safety for their communities.
The campaign developed by the students will harness the power of social media to raise awareness of the risks of texting and driving, and driving with children in the car. The messages may find a powerful home in the many mobile and on-line spaces used by young people.  Indeed, the students involved in this initiative come from across the region know better than anyone how to reach their peers. The project turned out to be an interesting new model of public-private collaboration: while the campaign gave students the opportunity to professionalize their cinematic skills, it also helped companies breed and identify talent  – all whilst having a positive impact on social behaviour.  We hope this campaign will provide a proof of concept, and inspire a generation of new media makers to work on projects to improve their own societies. 

* By Elizabeth Daley, Member of the Global Agenda Council on Media, Entertainment and Information, Steven J Ross/Time Warner Professor and Dean School of Cinematic Arts, University of Southern California.