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The outrage, animosity and antagonism against the current regime of Hosni Mubarak is best followed real-time at #Cairo and #Egypt on Twitter. The influence of mass effervescence, the conviction that the protestors display and its myriad manifestations is translating into whats being seen and reported on the streets of Egypt. This is possibly not a revolution brought forth by social media alone, but blogs, Twitter, Facebook & YouTube have had a consequential role to play in Egypt. Social media once again flexes its muscle to be the catalyst for change, in this case a historic one.
Take for instance Ramy Raoof, a digital activist with Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights, (A poster boy for Western media in Egypt!) who is using his blog to spread the message, mobilize support and organize protests. The blog is being used to devise plans to exhibit police atrocities, antagonism of the ordinary Egyptian and furnish plans to save detainees.
Raoof has also been incredibly innovative in linking Bambuser to his blog, which enables live broadcast of protests from different regions from his mobile. His Flickr page, has images collated and updated in an organized fashion which is actively used by protestors, media and government agencies.
The ‘Twitterverse’ has been incredibly supportive of this mass movement. Tweets coming from within Egypt (in spite of blocked internet) is helping followers from around the world to be abreast of the situation on the ground. Even journalists like Ben Wademen of CNN, are using Tweets, when unable to use OB vans.
To help Egyptians, in case of an internet blackout, Google’s SayNow (A brand new acquisition) has launched a ‘tweet via voice’ service, where the protestors can call a central number to leave tweets automatically tagged #Egypt & #Cairo.
[This YouTube video which went viral has the message of an 8 year old to President Mubarak has a quarter of a million views in 72 hours.]
Remember, Egypt has a decent internet penetration of 22%, a total of 16 Million internet users (1/5th of internet users of Africa) compared to neighbors like Sudan and Libya have only 10.2% and 5% respectively. Tunisia, a country which influenced the Egypt uprising strongly also has a remarkably high penetration of 34%. A pattern of correlation between internet penetration and mass movement is emerging.
The Egypt revolution is certainly the result of resentment which emerged from lack of freedom and democracy combined with poor economic conditions and unemployment. But, to commence and sustain movements of this proportion (2 Million people at Tahrir square yesterday), we need innovative, effective and efficient tools. Revolution is as much about emotions and sentiments as much as it is about politics and economics. Social media provides the solutions to these requirements in today’s age. As we see, this movement has succeeded enough to get an autocratic ruler of 30 years to concede defeat, yet another evidence of just how critically influential this medium is turning out to be. To quote an Indian blogger “I have tremendous renewed respect for all pre-internet revolutions!”.
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Arun is a digital marketing professional who previously worked with Google in India before seeing snow for the first time as a current MBA student at HULT International Business School in Cambridge. He also is a business quiz enthusiast and has hosted and conceptualized several of them.