Wael Ghonim used social media as a weapon in the uprising in Egypt. He believes his country now must use such technology not as a medium but to automate business
ONE OF the star attractions at the Dublin Web Summit today is the Egyptian revolutionary Wael Ghonim who rose to global prominence following his role in the Egyptian revolution that resulted in Hosni Mubarak stepping down after a 30-year reign.
Speaking to The Irish Times last night on the eve of his appearance at the Web Summit, he reflected on the technology “eco-system” in Egypt and his hopes for Egypt going forward, politically and with reference to its ever-growing technology and entrepreneurship sectors.
“In Egypt, the eco-system is not there, due to huge infrastructural issues and in particular challenges on how companies can monetise,” he said.
“The real challenge now is to develop an infrastructure policy framework on how to use the technology and how to protect the rights of those who are using it and those who are working in the industry. Finally, affordability needs to be an issue to expand the numbers of users of the different technologies.”
Ghonim has been partially credited with demonstrating to the world the power of social media in pursuing social and political change in an environment where no hope in government existed. In the case of Tunisia and then Egypt, tools such as Twitter and Facebook played an invaluable role in bringing down repressive dictatorships.
In 2010, Ghonim was one of the founders of the FB page, “We are All Khalid Said”, named after the death of a young Egyptian following a brutal beating by police in Alexandria.
On January 14th, 2011, Ghonim suggested people take to the streets of Egypt, like in Tunisia, on January 25th. Two hours later he published an event entitled: “Revolution against Torture, Corruption, Unemployment and Injustice”. This sparked other initiatives and campaigns.
Ghonim came to Egypt, having persuaded his employers at Google to allow him to go home, citing “personal problems”, but his main aim was to partake in the protests and continue mobilising with other activists.
On January 27th, Ghonim was kidnapped by Egyptian security and detained for 11 days until February 7th when, following calls from groups such as Amnesty International, he was released after stating: “We will not abandon our demand and that is the departure of the regime.”
However it was not until he gave an interview with local broadcaster Dream TV and broke down after seeing picture of fellow activists who had been killed by regime forces that local Egyptians en masse started to feel “that enough is enough” and join the others on Tahrir Square in central Cairo.