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Khalifa University Emirati Researcher Creates New Web Tool to Facilitate First-Ever Twitter Analysis on COVID-19 in UAE

June 9, 2020

Project Assessed Tweets in English and Arabic from 01 January to 01 May on Messages Ranging from Origin and Spread of Disease, Government Responses, and Treatment
An Emirati faculty member at Khalifa University of Science and Technology has created a new web tool for analysis of COVID-19 Twitter data in the UAE, offering the public insights into conversations, emotions and sentiments concerning the virus.
The tool titled Analysis of Cross-linguistic markers of COVID-19 Tweets in the UAE’ shows  that public sentiment remained positive and trustful of government actions towards mitigating the spread of the disease, reflecting the UAE’s effective measures against COVID-19.
The web tool developed by Dr Aamna Mohammed Al Shehhi, Assistant Professor, Electrical Engineering and Computer Science, facilitated understanding of social impacts of COVID-19 by creating a Twitter dashboard that offers an insight into public social media conversations. Analyzing linguistic markers in social media posts helps in assessing and evaluating changes in the narrative about COVID19, while understanding the social and emotional reaction to different government actions.

Dr. Arif Sultan Al Hammadi, Executive Vice-President, Khalifa University, said: “The new web tool for analysis of COVID-19 Twitter data in the UAE identifies the positive sentiment generated by the UAE government’s timely response to fighting the spread of COVID-19, indicating the leadership’s swift response to the pandemic challenge through social distancing and other health-related measures. We hope that this web tool will serve as an instrument to gauge the sentiment and attitudes of the community, helping governments and policymakers in understanding the impacts of policy measures.”

Led by Dr. Aamna Mohammed Al Shehhi, the project to develop the web tool for Twitter analysis in the UAE, was also supported by the Emirates ICT Innovation Center (EBTIC), which is supported by Etisalat, BT, Khalifa University, and the UAE ICT Fund.
Dr. Al Shehhi said this Twitter analysis indicates the ever-increasing role of social media and its impact on policy-making. She added: “Such understanding enables large-scale opportunities for information-seeking, and practice-sharing to calm people down, and understanding of the differences in the COVID-19 narrative delivered across languages. It also provides a tool to measure the COVID-19 impact on social well-being. Integrating Twitter dashboard analysis therefore can help policymakers during the decision-making process.”
The study assessed tweets both in English and Arabic during the observation period, which spanned from 01 January to 01 May 2020. The predominant topic of tweets ranged from the origin of the disease, the disease’s spread, government responses, and treatment, in addition to common themes of daily tweets.
The data shows that in early January, at the beginning of the observation period, panic behavior was noticed in both Arabic and English tweets on COVID-19, during which time fear topics such as virus, death, epidemic, and pneumonia were common content. However, since January-end, there was a greater spread of positive and hopeful sentiment, which increased over time. This increase in positivity is attributed to different government actions, such as restrictions of movement at national borders and strengthening of the healthcare system.
Clarence Michael
News Writer
9 June 2020

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