'When revolution came to Egypt the internet could go only so far'
Fanny W. Y. Fung
Effat El-Shooky thinks the internet is a great tool for spreading knowledge but disputes the accuracy of referring to Egypt's so-called jasmine revolution as an 'internet revolution'.
An adviser to Egypt's minister of communication and information technology, El-Shooky was a delegate at the World Summit Award conference in Hong Kong.
She said the 'internet revolution' label was misleading, despite campaigns on social networking websites that were widely seen to have played a major role in the dramatic uprising.
'Our revolution has been labelled because it was led by the youth, who have been called the internet generation,' she said. 'In fact, it is a revolution of the generation which has been using the internet. These youths have been social-networking months before the revolution.'
El-Shooky took up the advisory position three years ago under the Mubarak regime and is still holds the post in the transitional government.
But she said the online political movements did force the authorities to hear the people's voices in new ways and helped educate people about their rights more quickly.
'It was a big surprise when we found the military council had opened a Facebook page,' she said. It had to have a Facebook forum to get feedback from the young people, she said.
She declined to comment on the situation on the mainland.
With net users spreading messages efficiently, El-Shooky said, those around them also benefited. 'Even illiterate people started to get knowledge about the constitution, about how to get their rights and freedom.'
She said the government's internet and mobile phone blackout in Egypt during the revolution on January 28 had failed to suppress protests.
'We believe they were not successful ... On January 28, we found strikes staged at the same time, with the same requests' despite the blackout.
But a Tunisian representative at the conference, Faouzi Zaghbib, found internet campaigning had been an important factor in the quick success of his country's revolution. 'It took us 23 days to get out the dictator who had sat there for 23 years,' said Zaghbib, a general manager at an information technology firm.
'On January 14, I was with three students, using Wi-fi at a public laboratory for food and health,' he recalled. 'We received an invitation online to a rally and all went to the Ministry of Interior Affairs, which represented the dictatorship. Everybody got the same information on the same day, and we all went to demand the liberation of our country,' he said.