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Dr Fahed Al-Sumait awarded 2018 Research Fellowship by London School of Economics and Political Science

Date: 
7 November 2017

Gulf University for Science and Technology (GUST) today announced that Dr. Fahed Al-Sumait, Head of the Mass Communication and Media Department at GUST, has been granted the 2018 Short-Term Visiting Research Fellowship from the London School of Economics (LSE).  The annual fellowship is an open competition to all GCC nationals with a PhD in a field of study relevant to the Kuwait Programme goals, as set by LSE and the Kuwait Foundation for the Advancement of Sciences (KFAS).

 

For his project, Al-Sumait is participating in a global project run jointly through the LSE and Oxford University’s Internet Institute which aims to improve the measures and models for evaluating people’s use of digital media technologies. More specifically, his research will look at the relationship between people’s demographic characteristics like age, income, education, nationality, and location; as well as the kinds of benefits they get or fail to get from using digital media. The concept behind the research is to help communities to move beyond traditional concerns about the “digital divide”, which assume that economics and access are the best predictors of people’s digital benefits.  As such, Kuwait will be one of several countries in which this research is conducted, and there will be a number of unique circumstances to explore such as high per-capita income (11th worldwide), large and highly transient expatriate community (approximately 70%), and young population (40% under 24 years of age); all of which result in considerable linguistic, cultural, educational, and economic diversity.

 

Al-Sumait’s research will fit a number of goals set by the Kuwait Programme, which aims to establish collaborative research partnerships between LSE and Kuwait universities, in order to generate high quality research on the challenges facing the country, expand Kuwaiti expertise on these challenges, conduct time-sensitive, and policy-relevant research which will serve as the platform for informed-policymaking in the country and the wider GCC.

 

While the fellowship is restricted to a three-month summer period in which to draft the research reports, the preparation preceding the appointment involves a full year of adapting the project tools to Kuwait. In the academic year following the fellowship appointment, Al-Sumait and his team will conduct the national-level assessments on digital media use and their outcomes in Kuwait. The findings of the research will be made public for policymakers, academics, and other interested parties.

 

Head of the Mass Communication and Media Department at GUST, Dr. Fahed Al-Sumait, said, “We will spend the next year conducting cognitive interviews with selected respondents to determine the applicability and understanding of the questionnaire, and to collect qualitative data showing cultural specificities of engagement with digital media. Following the cognitive interviews and any resultant adaptations, the measures will then be discussed in a series of focus groups, each of which is constructed to represent particular audiences targeted by the national-level administration. The resultant instrument from all of this testing will be further pilot tested in two different survey waves prior to the end of the 2017-2018 AY. During the following academic year (AY2018-2019), we will focus on distributing the customized measurement tools nation-wide for the full-scale research.”

 

The research conducted will be crucial to drafting laws and policies on digital media use, as there is a dire shortage of reliable data about its use, habits, and outcomes in Kuwait. This will help fill that immediate gap, and will give policymakers and leaders a clearer picture of how digital outcomes manifest differently for different members of society.  The findings can also be used for social engagement, entrepreneurship, and as marketing intelligence.

 

Since its establishment in 2007, the Kuwait Programme has become a world-leading hub for research and expertise on Kuwait and the wider GCC region.  It is fully funded by KFAS, and is headed by Professor Toby Dodge, an internationally renowned professor. What’s also important to note, is that previous awardees have also hailed from GUST, and include Associate Professor Dr. Mariam Alkazemi, also from the Mass Communication and Media Department.

 

Al-Sumait is an active member of the GUST community, and is currently engaged in a number of other high profile research projects, which include, investigating the role of Western-style higher education in the GCC on students, and has previously worked on the World Information Access Project in the US, UK, and Egypt. Al-Sumait has also published papers, edited books and book chapters exploring various aspects of the media’s social implications.