Web 'critical' to Egypt protest

2011-10-18 14:31
The internet helped to facilitate the fall of the Egyptian regime, one of the participants has said. (Duncan Alfreds, News24)

The internet helped to facilitate the fall of the Egyptian regime, one of the participants has said. (Duncan Alfreds, News24)

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Oslo - The internet and social media were critical in causing the government of Hosni Mubarak to fall, one of the protest participants has said.

"The internet was the main reason that made this revolution a reality in Egypt because the internet gave us the privilege to organise ourselves," Ayman Shokr, a technologist who was involved in the Egyptian protest that resulted in the fall of the government, told News24.

He made his remarks on the sidelines of the Up North Web conference organised by software company Opera in Norway.

Web traffic increased significantly before the protests in Egypt and the government shut down the internet to limit users' access to protest information.

"The whole revolution started through a Facebook page asking people to protest. We never imagined that a Facebook page can force the whole regime to step down," Shokr said.

Restrictions

He said that the dissemination of information under the Mubarak was difficult because of restrictions on information the government deemed subversive.

This resulted in people in several countries taking to social media on the internet to call to regime change in what has been dubbed the Arab Spring.

The social movement migrated to the US with the Occupy Wall Street protest which seeks to hold bankers accountable for the financial crisis in the US.

"In the past you had to do it through the papers and you can't say it on TV because the TV channels will not allow you to do so.

"But the internet actually reaches every house, everyone. So we had the ability to gather a lot of people. As you know there were millions of people in Tahrir Square," said Shokr.

He said that most of the younger protestors accessed the internet via mobile devices and social media sites like Twitter played a significant role in broadcasting the message of the protests.

"It was PC for most people but youth and youngsters, they mostly used mobile phones - mainly Twitter."

Older generation

According to Shokr, there is a growing gap in Egyptian culture between the older generation and the younger one that was highlighted by their use of technology.

"There is a big difference between the youth and elderly people - people who are above 40. There is a very big gap in the way we think and the way we hope.

"That's why the whole revolution happened. You can imagine that the old regime - [people were] 50, 60, 70 and above. It was a different way of thinking than we think."

Recently, people have been back on the streets to protest the military government's perceived crackdown on dissent and the delay of elections for a civilian government.

Shokr said that it was not expected that swift progress would be made and it will take time for Egyptian society to normalise.

"I can't call it a second revolution, but it can't happen that right after the revolution everything will be green and happy, you know.

"There are a lot of steps that should happen and the most important one that people are seeking now is to have a civilian government; a civilian president.

"There's supposed to be a parliamentary election by November and I think we would become calm after this."


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