Saturday, 29 January 2011

What does an Internet blackout achieve?

The events of the last couple of days in Egypt have certainly kept us glued to our seats as what looks set to be a revolution in the making unfolds before us.  What direction it'll take, how it will happen and who will take charge next are still questions we don't know the answers to but just as we saw the Iron Curtain collapse two decades ago, the same could happen in and around the Middle East.

In this day and age when most of us have taken our mobile phones and Internet connections for granted, we saw Egypt turn back the clock this week by blocking off services systematically.  While there has been outrage over this decision from most people outside the country (and I'm sure within the country as well), it makes you wonder what the government thought they'd achieve?

When a crisis like this unfolds, what is needed most is communication.  When clear and open channels for discussion can exist, then there can be hope that a resolution is reached by dialogue.  When communication channels are blocked, it leads to more frustration and a disconnect between the opposing sides.  Any attempt to block off or avoid communication is seen as a sign of weakness of the regime.

Despite all of this, the Egyptians moved on with their protests yesterday, the world heard their story and the attempted blackout achieved little.  There was a means of communication before the Internet took rise and we all equipped ourselves with Blackberry's or iPhone's.  The past few days have shown this and despite the social media channels being flooded with chatter about what's happening in Egypt, it has been the resilience of the Egyptians to find any means necessary to get their message out.  By blocking television signals, mobile phone signals and Internet connections, it only created more reason to be out on the streets protesting.

As the situation unfolds, we'll wait and see what shape things take but what is for sure, the Egyptians have shown the world that despite the best attempts of the government to cut off access to the rest of the world, they will be heard.