Sunrise in Egypt?

Like most journalists, I have been glued to the news, following the amazing events as they were unfolding in the Middle East (while secretly wishing I was in Cairo myself).

As a technocrat, I believe that this movement, sweeping over an entire region, was only made possible by the new information technologies. There were many factors, but the biggest of all were Internet-enabled, camera-equipped mobile phones in the hands of masses of young and tech-savvy people. The power and consequences of this technology is only now beginning to dawn on the older generation.

It took 18 days to derail a regime of 29 years.

I think the wave’s origins can be traced back to the Iranian elections of 2009. Although the massive protests afterwards were ultimately not successful, this event was a watershed moment and served as a “proof of concept”.

After Mubarak’s ouster today, people were not only celebrating in Egypt. According to BBC reports, there were people dancing in the streets of Tunisia (where Zine Ben Ali’s regime had been forced out weeks earlier). In Lebanon’s capital Beirut, people are setting off fireworks and flying the Egyptian flag. And in the Palestine, people are on the streets, singing the Egyptian anthem, and crowds are flocking to the streets in Jordan. As I am writing this, an avalanche of celebratory text messages is lighting up mobile phones all over the Middle East.

This information-driven movement is clearly not limited to one particular country, nor can it be contained by national borders. It would be a mistake to assume this is the end of it.

What will be next? Who will be next?

For now of course, the military has taken power in Egypt. The question is now whether this will lead to free elections and an independent government chosen by the people, free from foreign influence, based on the rule of law and subject to well regulated checks and balances.

Only then will we know if today’s events were a new sunrise or a sunset in Egypt.

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