Saturday, February 23, 2013

The Egyptian Blogosphere back in 2009

I found this paper I had written for a Masters course before I abandoned it. It was about Egyptian Digital Content and it was back in 2009. The next part is an excerpt of it relating to the Egyptian Blogosphere. It was written back in 2009 and I thought maybe someone somewhere would find it interesting.

According to a study published by the Middle East Centre, University of Oxford, the Egyptian blogging era started around 2003 with a few bloggers who were “experimenting” with the idea. Before 2005, there was about 40 Egyptian blogs in total. In the following year, the political incidents arising in the country; the amendments in the constitution and the first presidential elections under the new laws) and in the middle east in general; the war on Iraq, has led the Egyptian activists, now speaking out, to go to blogging to get their voices heard. Kifaya movement and human rights activists were starting to gain international exposure, shortly followed by the Muslim Brotherhood who, by the end of 2006, have gained considerable attention. The diversification and fragmentation phase could be noticed by the end of 2006. The Egyptian blogosphere started to contain segments of bloggers with specific directions; leftists, copts, muslim brotherhood, cultural and poetic bloggers, personal bloggers, social commentators, even Bahai and homosexual divisions.

The starting Egyptian blogs were one of two types. The first would be technical blogs, introduced to IT people through their interaction with the internet. This makes sense since blogs now are considered to be a source of technical support to anyone who needs it. An open source technical tool called WatiN practically does not have any documentation other than what WatiN users are blogging about it. The second type of blogs belonged to leftists, urged by the Iraqi blogs about the war, describing the situation, then, in Iraq. Most of these beginning blogs were in English; directed to an international audience in addition to friends. The minority of Arabic blogs are meant to go out to fellow Egyptians, as the Arabic bloggers say, in addition to them being more comfortable blogging in their mother tongue.

By 2005, there were 400 blogs as estimated by experts, and by 2006 there were three times as many blogs. At that time, the Egyptian voice of citizen journalism has begun to mature, forming a personal, opinion based source of insight into Egypt’s political and social status.

By 2006, now that blogging has gained huge momentum across the country, Egyptian internet users were beginning to blog about everything there is to blog about. With the former activists giving way to some freedom of press and speech despite the arrests of several bloggers, allowing topics that were once (and still are) taboo in the Egyptian society like sexuality and religions such as Baha’ism, and their Egyptian practitioners to speak out and communicate.

To sum up, the Egyptian blogosphere consists of techies, activists, leftists, and other distinct groups sharing similar interests or promoting their own ideas. There are also the occasional personal blogs, online diaries, cultural blogs and some pure nonsense. With the arrest of activist bloggers and even facebook activists who promoted the 6th of April strike, internet based citizen journalism is facing the same difficulties as any other form of journalism in Egypt, leaving room on the internet for shallower topics like the latest album release of a singer, or which celebrity got a nose job. Maybe blog publishing systems such as Blogspot or Blogger should start working on providing higher security measures for the tracking of bloggers to keep them anonymous. Or bloggers should have the awareness to use anonymous proxies to access their blogs and use fake names and identification techniques.



Egypt has a considerable amount of digital content online. Ranging from government based content to corporate websites to a force to be reckoned with blogosphere. The question is how well is it advertised, utilized, and brought out to the world. Egyptian internet users are not interested in using the internet as a vast learning realm as much as they use it to get the latest on football and singers, and maybe as a really big newspaper. What is the point of the government’s huge Arabic content repository if no one accesses it? What point is it if they do not rank on Google search results? How will the people, Egyptians or other, know that it even exists?! If a portal like Luxor portal, meant to show the world what Luxor is all about and to help the tourism industry, is only advertised on a website related to the Egyptian government where probable tourists will most likely never go online, then how will it serve its purpose?!

However, not everything related to the Egyptian content is related to the Egyptian government; organizations such as the ones owning Masrawy should also act to increase the proper use of the internet in Egypt. Although something like, a blog publishing system created and maintained by LinkdotNet, directed to create and support the IT technical community in Egypt, would be considered a giant leap in the direction of creating and utilizing constructive content, there is still so much to be done with the Egyptian digital content to help all Egyptian internet users and increase them as well. From web applications designed for children to online college workspaces, the Egyptian digital content is rather poor compared to other countries in the Americas, Europe, and Asia.

On the bright side, the blogosphere in Egypt could actually be a force to be reckoned with. Political entities such as the Muslim Brotherhood and Kifaya have used the blogs successfully. Shouldn’t there be other trend setters out there directing the blogs to more rewarding topics?

In my opinion, digital content should be treated like any other industry. It requires marketing, sales, finances, human resources, and well-set system to be able to harvest its amazing potential.

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