Social networks, digital technologies and political change in North Africa


Much has been written about the potential of new ICTs, and particularly mobile technologies and social networking software, to transform political and social systems.  A fundamental question that underlies all work in ICT4D is whether new ICTs can indeed be used by the poor to overthrow oppressive regimes, or whether, like other technologies before them, ICTs are used primarily by the rich and powerful to maintain their positions of power.  Until very recently, it seemed that despite the potential of ICTs to undermine dominant political structures, most attempts to do so have been ruthlessly crushed.  The ruling regime in Iran was thus able to suppress the ‘Twitter Revolution’ of 2009-10, and the Burmese government likewise maintained its grip on power despite extensive use of mobile ‘phones and the Internet during protests in 2007.

Recent events in North Africa, with the overthrow of President Ben Ali in Tunisia and the continuing protests against President Mubarak in Egypt, have widely been attributed in considerable part to the agency of mobile ‘phones and the use of social networking environments over the Internet.  Whilst it is too early fully to judge their importance in fueling such political protests, the following reports provide evidence in support of such claims:

Tunisia

Egypt

Wider ramifications

Much research needs to be undertaken on the real role of ICTs in these ongoing political processes.  What seems apparent, though, is that many participants do indeed believe that these technologies are helping them achieve their objectives.

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5 Comments

Filed under 'phones, Accessibility, Africa, Development, Ethics, Social Networking

5 responses to “Social networks, digital technologies and political change in North Africa

  1. http://www.facebook.com/album.php?aid=268523&id=586357675&fbid=493689677675

    *Egypt, let your people go online! Sign new
    @accessnowpetition calling on ISPs

  2. Pingback: What do ‘media’ do? « Pop Theory

  3. How can we unite to bring change into the workplace for american workers that are not protected from harrassment because they are not federal or union workers?

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