#Saudi Arabia world’s 2nd most Twitter-happy nation

Updated 26 May 2013
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#Saudi Arabia world’s 2nd most Twitter-happy nation

Saudi Arabia currently ranks second among the world’s fastest growing countries on Twitter, with a 42-percent increase in the number of account holders after Indonesia, which rose to 44 percent, according to GlobalWebIndex’s ‘Stream Social: Quarterly Social Platforms Update.’
“Twitter appeals to the Saudi user. He just wants to say what is on his mind, float an idea, debate and discuss it and jump onto a new subject,” said Bilal Hallab, social business strategist and general manager at the Social Clinic, a social media and business consultancy firm based in Jeddah.
“We see these phenomena in many countries. In the US for example, Twitter is by far more common and preferred than Facebook.”
Hallab adds that the majority of Internet users in Saudi Arabia are Twitter account owners, with three million users. Facebook has more than six million users. “The growth of Twitter over the past eighteen months in the country is phenomenal.”
According to a report released by the Social Clinic in 2012, Saudi Arabia topped the list of Twitter growth penetration throughout all four quarters of 2012, with a growth rate exceeding 3,000 percent versus the global growth rate of 300 percent. “What is more surprising is that Riyadh held 10th position as a city worldwide in terms of tweets per month,” said Hallab.
Riyadh alone accounts for 50 million tweets. Saudi Arabia has the most Arabic tweets among the other Arabic-speaking countries and it accounts for 30 percent of the entire Arabic tweeting population. This makes Arabic one of the top 5 growing languages on Twitter, according to the Social Clinic report. “Twitter allows for short fast live-updates and conversations that spread information at the quickest speed and with the widest reach,” said Manal Assaad, a social media strategist and marketing consultant at the Manalyst. “Facebook has more users than Twitter in Saudi Arabia (5+ million users on Facebook users and 3+ million active Twitter users by the end of 2012), but Twitter is a more open social network that allows users to discover what’s going on around them, follow what others are doing or talking about, and lets them communicate with other users freely even if they don’t know them.”
Assaad said that starting or joining conversations on Twitter with strangers is much easier than on Facebook considering its very public nature.
It is also a more fun and lively source of news that is more accommodating to the nature of the Saudi youth, where important and relevant news come to them instead of them having to look for it.
The largest age group of Twitter users in the Kingdom is the 25-34-year-olds. The second largest group is the 18-24-year-olds.
“From my personal experience, I can say that Twitter can give the youth a great boost in terms of data discovery and knowledge, ideas and value exchange,” said Assaad. “Twitter allows the youth to follow local and international professionals who share their knowledge as well as useful tips and articles in small doses on a frequent basis.”
Assad herself has over 11,000 followers on Twitter.
She added that Twitter is also a great platform for crowdsourcing, where, with just a single tweet, you can reach hundreds — and even thousands — of users who can answer your questions, give you ideas and opinions, solve your problems, or at least spread the word about your needs.
“When used properly and strategically used to build and engage a community, Twitter can help support your business, whether you’re a start-up trying to raise awareness about your brand, or you’re a big brand aiming to support your customers with speed and spot potential customers.”


Researchers accidentally engineer plastic-eating enzyme

Updated 17 April 2018
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Researchers accidentally engineer plastic-eating enzyme

  • Despite recycling efforts, most plastic can persist for hundreds of years in the environment
  • Researchers say they are now working on further improvements to the enzyme

TAMPA: Researchers in the US and Britain have accidentally engineered an enzyme which eats plastic and may eventually help solve the growing problem of plastic pollution, a study said Monday.
More than eight million tons of plastic are dumped into the world’s oceans every year, and concern is mounting over this petroleum-derived product’s toxic legacy on human health and the environment.
Despite recycling efforts, most plastic can persist for hundreds of years in the environment, so researchers are searching for better ways to eliminate it.
Scientists at the University of Portsmouth and the US Energy Department’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory decided to focus on a naturally occurring bacterium discovered in Japan a few years ago.
Japanese researchers believe the bacterium evolved fairly recently in a waste recycling center, since plastics were not invented until the 1940s.
Known as Ideonella sakaiensis, it appears to feed exclusively on a type of plastic known as polyethylene terephthalate (PET), used widely in plastic bottles.

The researchers’ goal was to understand how one of its enzymes — called PETase — worked, by figuring out its structure.
“But they ended up going a step further and accidentally engineered an enzyme which was even better at breaking down PET plastics,” said the report in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, a peer-reviewed US journal.
Using a super-powerful X-ray, 10 billion times brighter than the Sun, they were able to make an ultra-high-resolution three-dimensional model of the enzyme.
Scientists from the University of South Florida and the University of Campinas in Brazil did computer modeling which showed PETase looked similar to another enzyme, cutinase, found in fungus and bacteria.
One area of the PETase was a bit different, though, and researchers hypothesized that this was the part that allowed it to degrade man-made plastic.
So they mutated the PETase active site to make it more like cutinase, and unexpectedly found that this mutant enzyme was even better than the natural PETase at breaking down PET.
Researchers say they are now working on further improvements to the enzyme, with the hope of eventually scaling it up for industrial use in breaking down plastics.
“Serendipity often plays a significant role in fundamental scientific research, and our discovery here is no exception,” said study author John McGeehan, professor in the School of Biological Sciences at Portsmouth.
“Although the improvement is modest, this unanticipated discovery suggests that there is room to further improve these enzymes, moving us closer to a recycling solution for the ever-growing mountain of discarded plastics.”