Friday, 28 January 2011

Egypt falls off the grid

I’ve been catching up on Twitter feeds from and about Egypt and the communications shutdown. Most updates are from 13-15 hours ago, then silence from Twitter inside Egypt. Absolutely incredible the speed at which the government shut providers down. And this blog post is undoubtedly already out of date.

A look at the Twitter feeds reflects the dissention and despair at what has happened – accusing mobile operators of “colluding” with the government.

Vodafone releases a statement, which read:

All mobile operators in Egypt have been instructed to suspend services in selected areas. Under Egyptian legislation the authorities have the right to issue such an order and we are obliged to comply with it. The Egyptian authorities will be clarifying the situation in due course

It’s impossible to get any information on the ground, given there are no phone lines, no Internet connections and no way to access services, like Facebook or Twitter, in or out of the country. It makes it much easier for rumours to fly and doubt to come in as to whether mobile operators were forced, agreed to, were threatened to close off their networks..

You suddenly realise again how dependent we have become on communication channels and how we rely on information sources online and across networks.

It seems the Internet went first, with mobile calls and SMS stopping. It was still possible to access Twitter and Facebook on mobile devices, until all of those services were shut off too.

A few links to some stories below, but changing so fast, these are really only background info now.

However, I think this will be a case study and a point of discussion for some time to come. While Tunisia was hailed as a result of youth, citizen activism, driven by social media and mobile connectivity, Egypt shows that the power can still be shifted by turning off the source.

It’s a developing story, but one that is currently only able to be told from the outside.

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