Queen Rania Addresses Google Forum

May 19, 2008

(Office of Her Majesty, Press Department – Herefordshire, UK) Amongst Google executives and many other dot com heavyweights, Her Majesty Queen Rania Al Abdullah spoke passionately about the need to utilize the web in bridging the divide between East and West, at the third annual Google Zeitgeist forum, Monday. For the first time since launching her YouTube channel dedicated to this end, Queen Rania also spoke about the origins of the idea and how it is working and why virtual communities need to pay more attention to the Arab world.

“The reason I decided to launch it [YouTube] is really the reason I’ve come here today,” she said, “In recent years, we’ve seen online platforms used as springboards for extraordinary good.” Drawing on the success of organizations like Kiva, which has sent millions of dollars of microfinance loans to the developing world, and Facebook’s “Causes”, which have raised over $2 million in donations, the Queen said that the same could be done for bridge building.

“What if outreach, conducted online, could raise cash and consciousness? What if it could do for global peace what it’s doing for philanthropy? What if we could leverage the Internet’s tremendous ability to bring people together to bridge the gulf of perception and trust between the Muslim world and the West,” she asked.

Citing a number of recent surveys, Queen Rania drew a grim picture of the status of the world’s perceptions today where the majority of Americans surveyed admitted to not knowing much or anything about the Arab world. In Muslim countries, large percentages of participants in another poll associated Westerners with only negative traits and no positive ones.

“As long as we’ve got our backs turned to each other, it’s hard to see eye to eye,” she said, “But there’s reason for hope. Because for all the tensions, most people on both sides agree that the relationship between the Muslim and Western worlds is something important to them.”

“The world needs your ingenuity in creating new means for connection and devising new networks for cross-cultural understanding that no one else has even imagined,” she said.

Drawing inspiration from the success of online networks like Soliya, Queen Rania spoke about how the digital world is helping to bridge the divide.

“When asked if they felt they had a lot in common with their counterparts, the percentage of students who strongly agreed rose from less than half to more than 70 percent for Middle Eastern students and surged to almost 80 percent for their European and American peers,” she explained.

“A journey of a thousand miles can begin with a single click,” she said, “With new technologies we don’t have to leave home to make a friend half a world away.”

That is what motivated Queen Rania to involve so many voices in this conversation. “I got thinking about how we could scale up this kind of digital dialogue, and that’s how the launch of my YouTube channel came about,” she said.

During the question and answer session to follow, Her Majesty expanded on this noting that the channel is a continuation of her work. The Queen often speaks at different venues about cross cultural dialogue and has turned to YouTube to use a different medium to promote it.

She emphasized the value of dialogue saying that it is more important to see and talk – to have a conversation – than it is to simply hear about the Middle East, which is what the channel is doing by connecting people around the world.

In the same manner that she has encouraged YouTubers to join the conversation, Queen Rania asked the attendees to take part in the effort, as well. “It’s the Yous who bring YouTube to life. The pulse of this conversation comes from many beating hearts,” she said.

Her Majesty addressed many of the video responses to her messages, which have been sent in from all over the world. “Seeing their faces, and hearing their voices, with all their varied accents and outlooks, reminds us that people are too diverse to be lumped together or labeled,” she said, “In a very real way these young people are public ambassadors for understanding – and their words are reaching an audience our foreign ministries probably don’t.”

The Queen encouraged attendees to reach out to all generations through their own mediums so that the Google and YouTube Generation can become the agents of change.

Queen Rania urged the audience to pay more attention to virtual investments in the Arab world. “We need help just to get more Arab voices on the Web,” she said, “Last year, Internet use in the Middle East and Africa few faster than anywhere else in the world – yet we’re still just a tiny bit – or byte – of the global audience.”

Also this week, Queen Rania released her latest video response on YouTube, which addresses the false assumptions that Islam and the Arab world are linked to terror and war. This is Her Majesty’s fifth post to the channel, which has been viewed globally nearly 2 million times.

During her time at the forum, Queen Rania held several side meetings with many of the prominent attendees to explore ways to expand their roles in such endeavors. Her Majesty also explored new technology on display at the gathering, including a new “multi touch surface” device.