An Interview With Queen Rania of Jordan On How Twitter Can Help Change The World

Her Majesty Queen Rania TweetingThe fundamental shift we are experiencing in how the Web is consumed (streams vs. pages) is also impacting our ability to engage with those we thought were beyond our reach. Consider this anecdote: When I was a teenager there was no chance I would have been able to communicate with a Jordanian monarch, and the closest I got to my favorite rock band—Guns n’ Roses—was getting crushed in the first row of their concerts in Budapest and Vienna.

Seventeen years later I am able not only to reach out to Her Majesty Queen Rania of Jordan, I am also one of the 46 users followed by Duff McKagen (@duff64), Gn’R’s former bass player. What made these things possible was Twitter (of course). The piping for 140-character thought bursts is what today connects an everyday, common Israeli, with the Queen of Jordan and a rock star.

In a recent post we wrote about Her Majesty joining twitter (follow her handle @QueenRania). We followed up with an interview request to find out how she is using Twitter both personally and to help change the world, and she graciously accepted. “Of course, I tweet,” she says. But unlike most of us, she tweets about taking her family to meet the Pope and working to give every child an education.

If you are unfamiliar with Queen Rania’s work, here’s what she’s been up to lately: Among her many activities in Jordan, Queen Rania focuses on promoting excellence and innovation in education. As UNICEF’s Eminent Advocate for Children, she is a staunch defender of children’s welfare. Queen Rania has also been vocal about the importance of cross cultural dialogue in fostering greater understanding, tolerance and acceptance across the world. Her YouTube initiative exemplifies this.

Below is the email interview I conducted with her:

TechCrunch: Could you tell us how you came to know of Twitter? Is it really you tweeting? And why do you prefer using Twibble and TweetDeck over other applications?

Her Majesty Queen Rania: I guess I first heard about it following the US election campaigns; there was quite a buzz around the creative use of social media in mobilizing people behind a common cause.

Since then, I’ve seen Twitter evolve into a dynamic and diverse medium for action as well as communication. Whether it’s raising money for malaria nets or promoting your company brand, Twitter answers much more than just “what are you doing?” It’s expanded to “what is the world doing, and what can the world do?”

Of course, I tweet. Tweeting is a very personal form of expression. Who else could talk about my son refusing to wear a suit to meet the Pope, my husband flying a helicopter, or take a twitpic from our home?

Tweetdeck was recommended by a friend, and that’s what I’m used to. And the same with Twibble; it works for when I’m on the go.

TC: My wife is still (grudgingly) coming to terms with my tweeting about our family… I’m curious as to how your husband, King Abdullah II, accepts Twitter now being fused with the everyday life of your family? Is your daughter, Princess Salma, aware of it?

Her Majesty Queen Rania: Well, my husband is supportive of my work, like advocating for dialogue between cultures on YouTube. Last summer he was really proud of the millions of views my YouTube channel was receiving. He’s a bit of a techie himself with his gadgets and gizmos, so he’s very intrigued about all my twittering. Like me, he knows we’re just like any other family and so opening a window into our world shows people that, regardless of titles, we’re human, too. Ever since YouTube, my children aren’t surprised by me joining Twitter and Facebook. Really, as part of the digital generation, they’re probably wondering what took me so long!

TC: Do you view Twitter solely as yet another social medium to use for spreading your message, or will it replace an existing tool? Who do you have in mind when you’re tweeting? Jordanians, or an international audience?

Her Majesty Queen Rania: Twitter’s a great way to tell people across the world what I care about and, hopefully, motivate them to join me in furthering my causes. It’s also a fantastic medium to hear the ideas and opinions of people I might not otherwise get to meet.

I want to tell people more about Jordan, about my life and work, but also to campaign for quality, global education. Not many people know that there are 75 million children out of school in the world…and two thirds are girls. And there’s just no excuse for that. We know what to do, we know how to make it happen, but we lack momentum from the masses to push politicians into action. It’s only when we have a critical mass of supporters behind this issue that we will put every child behind a school desk.

Twitter’s one way we can do that. It’s about using social media for social change: creating a community of advocates who can use their voices on behalf of the voiceless, or leverage their talents, skills, knowledge, and resources to put more children into classrooms, or pressure their elected representatives to get global education top of the agenda.

Who am I tweeting? Anyone who wants to learn more and help make a difference.

TC: You have a very progressive approach, even by Western standards, to transparent communication. How do you view restrictions imposed on the Internet in Middle Eastern countries?

Her Majesty Queen Rania: Just to clarify, not all Middle Eastern countries have restrictions on the internet. Some do, but I’m not in a position to comment on policies in other countries. I can tell you that in Jordan we don’t impose restrictions on the Internet.

TC: Do you foresee the use of the Internet in education to become as pivotal as it is in Western countries?

Her Majesty Queen Rania: Absolutely. Jordan is committed to ensuring that every child in our schools has access to, training, and proficiency in ICT. I believe that if we want our children to understand the world beyond their classroom, we must bring the world into their classroom. And teachers are also part of this equation. We’re using the internet in schools to upgrade their skills, mobilize resources, and encourage joint learning through online communities.

With a youthful population, we know the importance of a strong and innovative education sector, one that prepares our young people for the 21st century’s global marketplace and equips them with a 21st century skills’ set. By inspiring, engaging, and igniting their imaginations, we’re encouraging our children to be life-long learners.

TC: Do you see technology as key to the advancement of women’s rights? Is there a conscious effort on your part to become a role model in this sense?

Her Majesty Queen Rania: Social media are a catalyst for the advancement of everyone’s rights. It’s where we’re reminded that we’re all human and all equal. It’s where people can find and fight for a cause, global or local, popular or specialized, even when there are hundreds of miles between them.

It’s not about me being a role model, but about empowering people and making them believe that they can be role models and leaders for change.

TC: Have any of your tweets gotten a particularly large or surprising response?

Her Majesty Queen Rania: Well, I’ve only been tweeting for a week or so, but the Pope’s visit got quite a large response. I noticed people were quite interested in this one: @QueenRania: Hoping he cn get both sides 2 recognize their common humanity, then we cn start building frm there.

TC: Did your son end-up watching “Ghosts of Girlfriends Past” or was he spared the agony of the “chickflick”? (your husband’s words, not mine :-) )

Her Majesty Queen Rania: No, his father got to him before I did! ;-)

TC: Has anyone from the Twitter team contacted you after joining? Do you know of any other royals that use Twitter (perhaps privately)? Does anyone else in your family use Twitter besides you? Will we ever see the King tweet?

Her Majesty Queen Rania: I follow Biz Stone, but he has yet to DM me! As for other royals, I don’t know of any, not even His Majesty… If His Majesty ever decides to tweet, I’ll let you know on Twitter!

TC: What is your position on Holocaust denial groups on social networks specifically, and what should be done about hate speech in general?

Her Majesty Queen Rania: I think that, as is the case offline, we should not be tolerant of hate speech, racist comments, or groups that promote hatred or intolerance in any shape or form.