Like a lot of you we have been glued sometimes to the TV screens these last days. Seeing the people assembling on Tahrir Square in Cairo asking for a peaceful changeover to democracy in one of the biggest Arab nations is something of a watershed. For too much time we in the West were just used to taking for granted that, well, if it involves politics, the Arab world is a different tale wholly.
And the botched attempts to parachute ‘democracy’ into Afghanistan and Iraq appeared to underline this idea. However now, the chips up for grabs appear to be combined for a whole new circular. This being truly a business ethics blog, enables first work through some of those problems with respect to recent developments in Egypt. Let’s go through the upshot. The existing revolution would not have been possible without new mass media -or social networking companies. Twitter, Google, Facebook were instrumental in coordinating, organizing and networking the protest motion.
All which, of course, are private companies. We think it’s a great time to provide Google some credit – especially as we have taken them to task in a few of or our previous blogs every now and then. One of their professionals actually became a leader in the movement, which up to now has shown little indicators of a coordinated effort.
Google – symbolically displayed by Wael Ghonim, their marketing professional for the Middle East, has become a pivotal player in the ‘trend’ in Egypt. The support of social media has been vital – even after the Egyptian government closed down internet communication. It was when Twitter opened the ‘SayNow’ feature, allowing sending messages via telephone.
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As Ghonim described himself in an interview with ABC’s 60 Minutes program, much of the pressure to free him from his 12 times in solitary confinement by the Egyptian police came from his company Google itself. All in all then, we’ve seen private businesses ‘enabling’ civil and political rights, much along the relative lines of one our most cited papers. In a similar vein, some companies have gathered some shame also.
Vodafone’s network was used by the prevailing Egyptian specialists to send compulsory messages with their users in support of the system. Vodafone’s explanations do not sound very convincing. When has a major multinational accepted an mistreatment of their property lately? Looking at the way Vodafone has handled its business up to now, not at least the vociferous perseverance it applied to their takeover of Mannesmann in Germany years ago, their complicity in this process sounds less than convincing. Framing themselves as a helpless sufferer just doesn’t wash. Leaning back and comparing the current uprising in Egypt (and other Arab countries) to, say the fall of Communism in Eastern Europe 20 years back, there are a few remarkable distinctions now.
Apart from such accidental leaders like Wael Ghonim – would you not plan to play a bigger role in Egyptian politics and wants to go back to work – it really was a ‘leaderless rebellion’. No particular persons, organisations, ideologies or religious organizations can be discovered to have fuelled the procedure.