Second day of IGCF 2021 opens with online and cyber security awareness

In the presence of His Highness Sheikh Sultan bin Ahmed Al Qasimi, Deputy Ruler of Sharjah, the second day of the 10th International Government Communication Forum (IGCF), organised by the Sharjah Government Media Bureau (SGMB), opened with plenty of online and cyber security awareness and the role played by Gen Z in futureproofing the world.

HE Alya Al Suwaidi, Director of SGMB, opened the day’s sessions with a keynote speech, expressing her confidence that the forum, being held under the slogan ‘Historic Lessons, Future Ambitions,’ would benefit all UAE entities with the best experiences and lessons learned from government communication efforts.

Al Suwaidi thanked for the patronage of His Highness Sheikh Dr Sultan bin Mohamed Al Qasimi, Supreme Council Member and Ruler of Sharjah; and the support of His Highness Sheikh Sultan bin Ahmed Al Qasimi, Deputy Ruler of Sharjah and Chairman of Sharjah Media Council (SMC) extended to IGCF. “This forum is a tool in revealing the latest advancement in various technologies such as cyber security, social media and other methodologies in enhancing government communications,” she said.

Two Inspirational Talk sessions that followed the SGMB Director’s speech covered various cyber threats and information security challenges, and the latest social media and digital strategies best suited for government messaging to target the younger generation.

HE Dr Mohamed Hamad Al Kuwaiti, Head of Cyber Security for the Government of the UAE, made a presentation on the importance of cyber security, the role played by individuals in defending the cyberspace, as well as the dangers posed by security violations to individuals and entities. The UAE holds 33rd position in the global cybersecurity index, thanks to its effective national incident response plan, and the country has seen a decrease in cyber-attacks on government and personal entities in recent years, Dr Al Kuwaiti said.

“Today, wars are being fought at a ‘soft level’, with social media platforms being used to spread opinions, extremism and conflicts. The UAE has been highly active in coping with this development, moving seamlessly to e-governance and smart government activities,” Al Kuwaiti added.

The expert highlighted examples of cyberattacks that affected government and private entities involving ransomware that locked up systems. Classifying cyber threats into cyber security, cyber wars and cyber terrorism issues, Dr. Al Kuwaiti pointed out that while the UAE has the necessary expertise to ensure a safe online environment, cyber-crimes are rapidly evolving in nature with the use of AI, deepfakes and rampant identity thefts.

“In the last year, our Covid-19 measures have been very successful and made us a world leader in controlling the spread of the pandemic. We want to transfer those same standards to cybersecurity measures, establishing strategies and departments in each emirate to deal with potential attacks on the state, organisations, and individuals,” he added.

Timothy Armoo, the UK-based 26-year-old founder and CEO of Gen Z specialist agency, Fanbytes, highlighted the digital platforms and techniques most beneficial to government communications, and presented successful examples of ways these, along with the quality of messaging with relatable content and storytelling methods, have been used to reach the right target audience.

The young marketing genius, part of “Forbes 30 under 30”, explained that Gen Z is the most unique generation in that it has grown up with social media, and thus able to use it to amplify things they both like and dislike. Highlighting TikTok for its relatability and potential virality, Armoo noted that the best messaging used less product and more storytelling, leveraged cultural moments and made every user their own TV show.

“Social media has led to the marriage of content and advertising, and the more you rely on storytelling, the more you can get people to stay on the platform and the more you can sell or convey the message you want,” Armoo said, providing examples of a successful UK government campaign on TikTok to get young people to stay indoors during the pandemic and promoting vaccine taking using the #TestReadyChic hashtag, which cut Covid vaccine hesitancy by half among young people in the UK.

“Social media today is the remote control of the internet, so focusing on storytelling and creative campaigns best caters to Gen Z, the most influential people online right now, and help us futureproof ourselves in the process,” said Armoo.

Remie Akl, Lebanese singer, poet, and performance artist, took the IGCF 2021 stage next, and captivated the audience with her poignant words and digital visual storytelling skills as she urged the Arab youth to strive for positive change in society.

Akl’s moving performance was contrasted by YouTube’s No.1 Egyptian science nerd Ahmed El Ghandour’s witty take on how the truth can be utilised to shape public opinion and facilitate public life. Popularly known as ‘Al Daheeh’, the social media celebrity wrapped up the inaugural proceedings of the day two at IGCF 2021 by presenting an entertaining narrative on how complex and seemingly alien academic concepts can be understood and implemented to convey the truth, if they are presented in a more user-friendly manner through the various techniques of drama, comedy, graphics and animation.