Web Blockade Only Alienated Egyptian Business

By Wayne Rash  |  Posted 2011-02-01 Print this article Print


While I could discuss at length the problems the lack of Internet access caused the Egyptian economy, there's no need; if you're in business, you already know that commerce has required the Internet for years. Without that access, you're effectively out of business. 

But the Internet outage also demonstrates something else. The Egyptian government is so afraid of the truth, so fearful of information reaching its population freely that it's willing to risk the economic collapse of the nation to stop it. More than a few days without the Internet, and businesses at all levels of Egyptian society will suffer. Food will be difficult to order, producers will be unable to find buyers efficiently, prices will go up and availability will go down. A population already upset by rising prices and low employment will see yet higher prices and fewer jobs. 

Adding to the peril for the government is the alienation of the business community. In general, businesses are willing to tolerate even bad governments as long as they don't interfere with the ability to do business. But when you start pushing your business community to the brink of economic ruin, then you've also created another powerful foe and one that is well-connected at all levels of government and society. 

If things get difficult enough for Egyptian business, acts of civil disobedience such as providing WiFi access will escalate. The companies that sell fuel for government vehicles, for example, will have little incentive to deliver it if they're on the way to ruin. The companies that supply other needed products and services likewise have little incentive to cooperate. Even if they had incentives, they don't have the communications they need to provide those products and services.  

Sure, resuming Internet service lets all that scary information into Egypt again, but that that happened anyway showing that cutting off Internet service is not the way to try to squelch dissent or pacify a politically repressed population.

Editor's Note: This story was updated with news about the restoration of Internet service in Egypt.

Wayne Rash Wayne Rash is a Senior Analyst for eWEEK Labs and runs the magazineÔÇÖs Washington Bureau. Prior to joining eWEEK as a Senior Writer on wireless technology, he was a Senior Contributing Editor and previously a Senior Analyst in the InfoWorld Test Center. He was also a reviewer for Federal Computer Week and Information Security Magazine. Previously, he ran the reviews and events departments at CMP's InternetWeek.

He is a retired naval officer, a former principal at American Management Systems and a long-time columnist for Byte Magazine. He is a regular contributor to Plane & Pilot Magazine and The Washington Post.

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