Mohamed Salah headed to the central office of an Internet service provider in downtown Cairo on Thursday, Feb. 27. He took 100 coins out of his bag, each worth one Egyptian pound [14 cents], and gave them to the customer service officer. Although amazed, the employee soon started counting the coins. It took him more than 15 minutes to finish. This strange way of paying an Internet bill meets the call to object to poor Internet service in Egypt under the slogan, “We will pay with small change,” which was posted on the Internet Revolution Egypt Facebook page. Salah was not the only one who responded to the campaign, as many have posted photos on the page of themselves carrying bags of coins to pay their bills.
The Internet Revolution Egypt has become very popular on Facebook. Barely one month after the campaign began, the page has over 400,000 likes. The first statement issued by the campaign read: “Internet service providers underestimate the minds of the users. … Internet in Egypt is slow, customer service is bad, the infrastructure of internet exchange points is bad and companies are giving fake offers.” Most of the Internet users in Egypt reacted to the statement and let out a cry of anger labeled the “Internet Revolution.” The main demands of this campaign are “to lower the cost of access to Internet in a way that goes in line with the income of the [average] Egyptian citizen, to improve technical support, and to abolish the service providers’ monopoly and control over the Internet.” The campaign’s influence has widened to the point that even comedian Bassem Youssef took part in it, by mocking the slow Internet connection in last week’s episode.
The administrators of the Internet Revolution Egypt Facebook page told As-Safir that the campaign came as a reaction to all concerned parties that have been ignoring their legitimate demands. “The campaign will last two weeks, and it will help disrupt the work of employees, as the coin-counting requires time. This loss [of time and money] will force them to improve the Internet services. We asked that every participant in the campaign says, ‘With the compliments of the Internet Revolution’ to the employee after paying the bill.” The activists refuse to use the campaign for political purposes and say they have no intention to hold demonstrations. “The place of this revolution is on the Web, and it has been able to succeed without any movement in the street. We will not force our idea into politics. All of the media outlets in Egypt are talking about the ‘Internet Revolution,’ although it is taking place in a virtual world.”
Mohammed el-Nawawy, chief executive officer of Telecom Egypt, told As-Safir that the demands of the “Internet Revolution” are legitimate, adding, “There are several problems facing the Internet, and Egyptian users have the right to a decent quick service.” He says, “The company will change the entire infrastructure by replacing the copper wires with fiber wires.”
The latest report issued by the Central Agency for Public Mobilization and Statistics in Egypt (CAPMAS) said that 38 million subscribers have access to the Internet via mobile phones or computers. According to a report published by Akamai Technologies, one of the most important software and technology companies, Egypt has one of the worst Internet speeds in the world.
The “Internet Revolution” campaign is a step forward for Egypt with regard to Facebook. In the past, most of the country’s Facebook campaigns were political. Yet, the success of the “Internet Revolution” in mobilizing a large number of people demanding to improve a social service may open the way for Facebook to play a role involving social demands in Egypt.
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