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Social Media In Brunei; Horrifying Beast Or Majestic Animal

Brunei is ranked 1st for the internet penetration which is at over 90%, and 1st for social media penetration in 2017 amongst SEA countries.

Being in Brunei, it seems everyone is on social media. It’s a pretty common fact of life now. But have you ever wondered what social media and the digital landscape can actually do for Brunei? Which brings us to my title Social Media in Brunei; a horrifying beast or a majestic animal? It’s a somewhat daunting title, isn’t it? But I feel that it’s right for what’s been happening in Brunei in-terms of the online and social media landscape. I feel that we’re at a crossroad, a junction to either wasting these wonderful opportunities we have OR nurture it into a thriving and flourishing sector of the country’s economy.

Youth development, the overall theme for today. How do we develop our youth in a manner that will contribute to the success and welfare of our country? And by doing so, help solve the rising unemployment rate. The other elephant in the room. Seems like nowadays everyone has opinions and ideas on unemployment and how to reduce those numbers.

Some people might argue that our country’s unemployment rates are rising because our youth is indecisive, lazy and picky with jobs, so if they’re THAT, how can they find jobs and a career path after they graduate from education, and that’s even IF they graduate.

BUT I will argue that unemployment rates are on the rise because our youth are not being developed properly. I will argue that social media can reduce those rates, at the very least it can slowly but surely chip away at those numbers and figures.

Alright so let’s talk about social media, but before we start talking about it, we have to talk about the Internet first. Coincidentally, the Internet or the World Wide Web turned 30 recently. The whole origin of the Internet started in the 1960s by the Federal government of the United States that commissioned research to build a robust, fault-tolerant communication with computer networks. But Internet, as we know it is right now, was started by Tim-Berners-Lee in March of 1989 when he wrote a document called ‘Information Management: a proposal’, where he began working on a way where digital objects could be identified and retrieved through a browser. By 1991 it had turned into the World Wide Web and in August of that year launched the very first website; http://info.cern.ch.

The amazing thing about this was that Tim did not patent his technology and offered it royalty free. This allowed other programmers to work on the foundation that he has laid down, improving and tweaking on them thus spawning millions of website in the process. Imagine if this happened in Brunei, possible is it not?

Who here remembers how the Internet was being used in the 90s? It was such an awesome experience, wasn’t it? Starting your PC, loading your interface, logging into your user page, connecting the phone line into your pc, making sure nobody was using the phone, then hearing the dial-up tone, checking your Hotmail, seeing what’s happening on yahoo.com, chatting with your friends on MSN and MiRC. It was truly a different experience from how we use and consume the internet nowadays where we literally carry it around in our pockets and have access to it at our fingertips. Personally for me at that time, I knew this thing call the Internet would become huge and almost monstrous. The potential was just simply unlimited.

Moving to the present day where we consume the internet on a daily basis and some claim on an almost addictive level, we have so many things on to do and initially absorb. There’s Google, Wikipedia, Facebook, Instagram, Whatsapp, Dart, Uber, eBay, Amazon, Reddit, Youtube, Linkedin. The list goes on and on and on. Basically, there’s a website or an app now for anything that you can think of. But zooming in, how do we Bruneians are rated in using the Internet?

It’s a well-known fact that up to 80% of us are on Facebook, and amongst the ASEAN countries, Brunei is ranked 1st for the internet penetration which is at over 90%, and for social media penetration in 2017, Brunei was also ranked first amongst SEA countries and sits behind Qatar and UAE in global rankings. That’s really amazing, don’t you think so? Our country, Brunei Darussalam, that doesn’t even have a million people, uses the internet and social media even more than some of the major developed countries. Our penetration rate is even higher than South Korea and Singapore according to internetworldstats.com.

That’s pretty amazing for a small country that has less than a million people. But taking a step back, how do we Bruneians use the internet and social media on a daily basis? Most popularly through Facebook, Instagram and Whatsapp, right? Now, what do we do on those apps? Are they just time killers while we wait, to entertain us while we’re in-between activities? OR are we doing something productive or positive with them? Are we creating relatable content and building sustainable relationships? Are we earning and generating income on these apps? If we’re not, then I think it’s about time that we do, especially now when our unemployment rates seem to rise each year.

I think it’s time we dedicate our focus on the online economy and social media marketplace to carve a career and a living out of it. If you say it’s impossible, then I say look around. There’s already a number of prominent Bruneians that make a living on online or on social media. Just to name a few, Rano Adidas, Nadzri the DJ, Babu Sinur, Kurapak, Aliqpombunai, Amirul Adli, Thanis Lim, and Anak Brunei. But looking beyond social media influencers, there’s also online shops and social sellers popping up every now and then, like Naindah.bn and Stor Kitani. There are also actual ‘bricks and mortars’ stores also known as physical shops or businesses that are focusing their marketing efforts more on social media marketing and by an extension of digital marketing.

I’m not exaggerating when I say that we should focus on the online economy and social media marketplace, we should because by doing so, we’re opening up several new job opportunities and even industries that could pump a new breath of fresh air into our economy. Industries such as new technologies, data collection and analysis, the online marketplace, business consultants, content creators and editors, digital marketing, market analysis and more even.

How do we do that, you say? I say look back to the internet and social media. Our youths want to learn a new skill or gather knowledge in a certain industry? Easy, there are bucket loads of websites and apps and people of interest that can teach them online. All that is required out of them is time, dedication, positive mindset and most importantly of all, passion. Because with passion, it’ll push them further and harder compared to just doing it for money. Because if they just do it for the money, after a few months they will drop it, simply because they don’t love what they do. I talk about passion because I know from experience and after speaking with a few prominent local social media influencers and online business owners, we all share the same viewpoints.

You have to love what you do, always create relatable content, keep learning, be positive, create a community and It won’t happen overnight. These are some of the views that we all share, in order to make it online and earn a living from it.

Imagine if 10 people started on this path, then 100 people, then 1000 people, then 10000 people, and all of these people got together, work and support each other in what they do. It’ll be a beautiful scene and awe-inspiring.

With the internet and social media now, there’s no more reason to be ignorant. We should capitalize on our social media prowess and capitalize on the fact that most of our youths are already on social media and have a huge interest in it. All it needs now is guidance, knowledge and support. If we can do this, then I can assure you that the unemployment rate will be reduced and youth development will be in great hands. It will be in the youth’s hands.

Just like the internet when it first started, our youths’ development can also be limitless. And how I described it earlier on, social media in Brunei will either be a horrifying beast that’s a negative force in society OR a majestic animal that’s a power for positivity. I pray and hope that it’s the latter.

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Mohd. Zulhilmi Zainal

Mohd. Zulhilmi Zainal owns and runs Icon Marketing Consultancy that provides consultation and training to various startups and SMEs in Brunei Darussalam since 2015. He believes that there is a knowledge gap in the country and marketing as a whole can be done much more efficiently through the use of social media and the digital landscape. Follow him on LinkedIn.

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