The panelists sought to convey the importance of social media in staging and sustaining the revolution , while still recognizing that the movement itself was people-powered, fueled by individual activists in Tahrir Square and in the demonstrations across Egypt. “This was not a ‘Facebook’ revolution,” declared Khalil, who broke away from his PhD studies in London to join fellow Egyptians in Tahrir Square for the 18 days of protests and demonstrations. “Facebook and IT played a role in mobilizing the intellectuals and middle class protesters at the outset of the revolution, but in Tahrir Square, very few of the protestors came because of this.
Amr Waked described himself as being new to activism before the January 25 revolution. “In truth,” he said, “I didn’t know about half of the things that were going on in Egypt before the revolution. It was from sites like YouTube, where I watched videos of police beatings that I learned the truth. For me, the greatest aspect of these technologies was that anyone who wanted to search for the truth could find it there.”
Mohamed Waked, a longtime activist sought to play down the emphasis the international media has attached to the revolution with headlines referring to a ‘Facebook’ and a ‘Wikileaks’ revolution. “Really, this revolution is 10 years old and was born with the end of the second intifada. It was in the demonstrations surrounding [the intifada] that organized protests and demonstrations became standard tools in Egypt.” Waked conceded that social media is likely to have influenced a number of people to participate in the January 25 uprising may not have been involved in activism earlier. “Eighty percent of those there during the 18 days had never protested or been involved before,” he said.
The panel also discussed how social media and information technology could be used to better a post-revolutionary Egypt. “The people have embraced these technologies, but now they need to use them,” said Thakeb. “We need to utilize this spirit of communication amongst ourselves and channel towards discussing other social issues like how to keep the environment clean, ensure openness in governance and promote entrepreneurship in the new Egypt. People always say that as AUCians, we do very well in the job market because of our education here. I think it is because we are great communicators. We must capitalize on these skills to create new companies and jobs to sustain what we have created.”
The School of Business hosts IT forums several times a semester to promote interest in information technology and its effects on the world at large.
Photo Caption: From left, George Thakeb, Gigi Ibrahim, Amr Waked and Mohamed Waked discuss IT use in the revolution