Yesterday, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Emigrants announced that the online registration has closed. More than 90,0000 registered Lebanese expats will be voting in the upcoming Lebanese elections 2018.
This is the first time in the history of Lebanon in which non-resident Lebanese will be able to vote. I work as a social media and digital marketing consultant in Lebanon, so I was excited to check the website. Not only i was shocked that the website does not comply with international data privacy and protection laws. But also users who visit this site are being tracked using cookies without their consent.
Below you can see that the website has two google analytics codes installed and one facebook pixel. So who has access to the Lebanese expats data and is the data protected?
So what is a cookie and what can we do with it?
Have you ever noticed that you recently visited a website and suddenly that becomes the focus of online ads following you on different websites? A cookie tracks your browsing behavior and can be set to be valid for any amount of time.
In a simple explanation, once you visit a website, I can target you with ads that show up on other websites across different devices. While Facebook can use the data collected to expand your current user base to “lookalike audience”. This helps you target people with similar likes, interests, and demographics to people who are already interacting with your website.
Example. I can actually launch a “Fake News” campaign on Facebook and target everyone who visited diasporavote.mfa.gov.lb with a certain advertising message. Then target those 90K who registered with another ad. I can also expand my campaign to those who didn’t visit the site but rather look similar, Lebanese living abroad on Facebook. “Fake News” can impact the results of the upcominh elections in Lebanon similar to what happened in the 2016 presidential election in the United States of America.
International laws for data protection should be applied in Lebanon even if its the government collecting the data.
Nevertheless, the ability of Lebanese expats to vote for the very first time is a great initiative launched by Minister Gebran Basil to hopefully succeed in changing the political situation in Lebanon
I have been working in the digital industry for the past 5 years in Lebanon. When I started back then, it was an emerging industry and the online references were limited to couple video tutorials. Today. the resources and academies produced by top companies in the tech industry cover all aspects of the digital skills including coding, design, and marketing. Yet, the formal education system, and graduates displaying a poor work attitude are the among the main reasons fresh graduates in Lebanon can’t get hired or find jobs.
It is true that skills gap is a universal problem. Employers around the world in different business sectors are experiencing difficulty finding the right candidates with the required skillsets and the MENA region suffers from the highest youth unemployment rate (80%) in the world especially among fresh graduates. Yet the absence of digital skills has been a rising issue across all careers whether related to technology or not, with the increasing transformation of how we do things every day.
The HR landscape can no longer apply the traditional business practices. Today, social media plays a vital role in hiring. Most recruitment is done through social networks changing the world of HR professional. Online HR tools are developing to connect and understand employees and to reach and attract talent. Not to mention the quick social media background checks to assess candidates whether that should be taken into consideration or not. Thus, the use of digital in HR is a must and HR professional are encouraged to learn and develop digital skills.
I have given above a very simple example of a business that it’s employees should be empowered with digital skills in order to succeed. But if I had to talk about careers that are the heart of any digital service and in which having digital skills is not an option but rather a MUST. I would be talking about marketers, designers and programmers.
The 3 roles needed for ANY company to thrive in the digital revolution.
A travel agency requires a designer to create couple engaging posts for social media. Also, a developer to constantly update their website, and a marketer to provide a working strategy and the same process applies to any other business.
Today, the most in-demand jobs are those related to the digital skills. There has been recently a significant job growth of marketers, designers, and programmers in Lebanon specifically and in the Middles East in general. I have been trying to recruit fresh graduates in Lebanon in the above fields. Yet, I am really surprised by the lack of the very basic digital and soft skills.
The most common feature is that most show up to the interview late, that is if they actually show up. Most don’t even remember the company they applied to. Not to mention that they don’t actually invest their time in researching what the company does before showing up to an interview.
It is sad that fresh graduates in Lebanon aren’t equipped with the desired digital skills required in the modern workforce. Individuals and with very basic research will notice that for example, graphic designers in most businesses are required to do work for online materials. Such as designing a blog post to be placed on social media, or a banner for a website. Thus, showing up to an interview with couple bags full with university projects won’t really help. It is true that the current education systems in Lebanon have not kept pace with the demand for these digital skills. But what is also true, is that the number of free online resources available to help you learn such activities has rapidly developed in the past couple years. You can check Hootsuite Academy for social media skills, CodeAcademy for coding, TeamTreeHouse for web design…
What is really also surprising is that even when candidates were guided to learn and develop the right digital skills, the attitude of not willing to learn or work on self-improvement makes a big portion of fresh graduates in Lebanon “unemployable”.
Although i have a degree in advertising, and i can remember that most content related to marketing i came across during university was related to the traditional marketing approach and not related to the digital space. So, i did start my career by working for free to understand what digital marketing was. I have managed to develop digital skills when the only available online resources were couple youtube videos. But “i have learned for myself”.
As my career developed, I realised that the “digital marketing skills” are no longer enough. I found myself learning photoshop, illustrator, and Dreamweaver… Possessing such design skills is mandatory. compliment marketing. It helps marketers understand how much time is spent to create banners and how typography and colours represent a brand.
As marketing evolved more and more into the digital space, coding was the next must-have skills. I found myself learning basic coding skills including html, css, and some php. The only was to learn is never reading but rather practising and this blog was born. From installing WordPress, choosing a theme, and editing content. Then tapping into e-commerce with magento, and woocommerce. Installing a payment gateway, uploading a landing page on the server, and editing the content of a bootstrap page helped me understand how better “marketing instructions” can help developers work efficiently.
The digital skills gap is a product of multiple trends that can be summarised into two main points. First, the modern-day digital skill requirements outpacing formal education. Second, companies should be helping fresh graduates in Lebanon develop such skills in the workplace. Fresh graduates should also have the “right attitude” and willingness to learn or else the ability to grow and to innovate in Lebanon will be severely constrained.
Today Lebanon is in desperate need of a political revolution. “#YouStink” movement has failed to change the regime but it has succeeded in shaking up the country, attracting the vast majority of the population and reawakening the Lebanese which shed light on the impact of social movements in achieving change. Sabaa, a supposedly new political movement launched an extensive campaign on facebook and billboards across the entire country.
The teaser campaign is well prepared in terms of content and layout and has managed to generate curiosity, interest, and engagement. The amount of money spent to advertise the new social movement has speculated lots of conspiracy theories although there are lots of Lebanese in Lebanon and abroad willing to fund and support the cause of a better Lebanon without having hidden incentives. No statements were released to further explain the simple political slogans, videos, and designs used in the campaign which went viral triggering massive numbers of “facebook fans” in a short period of time and heavily engaging the Lebanese community.
Monitoring the limited content shared on their facebook page, you can draw few common personalities of users in the Lebanese community:
- Naive: Already showed blind support for the movement and are ready to follow without even knowing what they represent.
- Judgemental: Already believe the movement is deceptive, thrown accusations and drew their own conclusions.
- Pessimistic: Already assumed the movement will fail without even knowing what the movement is about.
- The Amazing: Those who actually want to listen: Showed enthusiasm, support for the cause not the movement itself, and are looking forward to knowing more before commenting.
The current political situation in Lebanon and the government’s failure to provide basic services has pushed the Lebanese to look for hope and change in the recent rising movements. So let’s hope Sabaa “SabaaPolitics” will actually produce real change.
If you go back to the recent incidents happening in Lebanon from theft, violence, and public sector corruption and the outrageous reaction of the Lebanese on social media towards the absence of governmental actions to find solutions, you would expect at some point to see this coming as i have previously written about Social Media in Lebanon: A Powerful Force for Change.
Social movements do no just happen, but develop through different stages. “طلعت_ريحتكم” or “YouStink” is the result of oppression and injustice that Lebanese have endured equally for a long period of time and the garbage crisis was only the straw that broke the camel’s back. Despite their religious, socioeconomic status, Lebanese society came together as one, to voice their disgust over the garbage crisis that united them together for the first time in years.
The Lebanese cabinet failed to agree on a solution for the country’s long-running garbage crisis while trash piled up across Beirut and elsewhere posing a threat to people’s health and environment. Anger about the massive amounts of trash accumulating on the streets provoked the rise of a trending “online campaign” after thousands flooded social media with pictures and posts telling the government you stink.
The campaign became trending worldwide gathering more than 200k tweets and “طلعت_ريحتكم” Facebook Page managed to attract more than 120k people in less than a week.
Fed up with the situation, a group of activists urged people using different social media networks to join their protest and the demonstration that started with few hundreds developed to thousands of Lebanese who took the streets with the support of civil society groups against the government’s failure to take action and have the large piles of rubbish which have been building up in the capital for weeks removed. The demonstrations led to clashes with riot police after police fired rubber bullets and doused demonstrators with water hoses. Dozens of demonstrates and police were injured and now “YouStink” is demanding the government to resign.
Lebanon’s garbage crisis has managed to reveal political paralysis. Whether “YouStink” will succeed in achieving a revolution or transform into a political movement, it has definitely given hope that the spark of change has not died in Lebanon.