We are excited to welcome Heba Ghannam, a PFP Fellow (Professional Fellows Program) from Egypt! The Professional Fellows Program is a US state department fellowship organised by Legacy International, that brings emerging leaders from the public and private sector from around the world to the United States for an intensive five-week fellowship, designed to broaden their professional expertise. This year, TechChange is excited to host Heba!

Heba is an Egyptian social activist with a strong passion for democracy, human rights, development and social change. After earning her Bachelors degree in political science from Cairo University, Heba worked for Procter & Gamble for four years, travelling between Egypt, Lebanon, Jordan and Syria while doing lots of development work with local NGOs as a volunteer. After the January 25 Revolution, Heba quit her job to join the first Middle-Eastern incubator for social enterprises. She then joined “Tahrir Academy”, a non-profit online collaborative learning platform replicating the Khan Academy model for Arabic speaking countries. She currently works for UNICEF Egypt where her work focuses on adolescent development and gender. In her spare time, Heba loves reading, especially about anthropology, Sufism, and history.

Heba will be at TechChange as for her PFP fellowship for 5 weeks. Welcome Heba!

For the first time, an international observation mission will utilize mobile devices and formhub for collecting real-time data from its observers.

I’m here in Egypt as part of the election observation mission with Democracy International, where 80 international observers are being sent to 23 governorates to witness the conduct of voting for the constitutional referendum. Each team was issued with two  mobile devices: A Nokia 105 cell phone and a Nexus 7 Tablet. While mobile phones have long been a staple of campaigns and observer missions, the mobile app is still fairly new — and not without skepticism. The Romney 2012 campaign in the US bragged about using tablets and Orca for mobile coordination, only to experience a complete meltdown on election day.

Screenshot from Formhug

Screenshot from formhub.org.

The tech is neat, but we’ll also have the hard-copy forms to report our findings in the event of interruptions or hardware failure. While formhub may be faster, more accurate, more informative, and lower risk than paper, when it comes to highly reliable and resilient methods for data collection, it’s still tough to beat paper.

For now, anyway.


There’s more to formhub than Egypt and elections! Below is a neat visualization of 1 million formhub submissions from around the world. Want to learn more? Check out our upcoming course on Mobiles for International Development.


Mohamed Bouazizi was three years old when Zine El Abidine Ben Ali took power in Tunisia. His self-immolation in protest of harassment by corrupt government officials 23 years later toppled the regime and triggered repressed populations across the region into action. (more…)

2011 has begun as a momentous year in the history and practice of nonviolent civil resistance. Tunisia and Egypt have sparked movements across North Africa and the Middle East as ordinary people rise up to resist the autocracy, corruption, and abuse they have lived under for decades. This method of struggle is by no means new, however. People throughout history have waged nonviolent struggle to gain independence, dissolve oppressive structures, and demand rights. With each new movement we are given an opportunity to learn from those who wage these struggles. Here’s what we can learn from Egypt…so far. (more…)

Update 13:30 EST 1/31
As the protests continue unabated, the internet remains largely blocked with the exception of Noor ISP which serves roughly 8% of Egyptian traffic. Internet activists have galvanized into a group called WeRebuild which is working to bypass restrictions. Their most interesting strategy so far has been to coordinate with international ISPs to provide international numbers which Egyptians can call with dial-up modems. Also fascinating is the steps ordinary Egyptians are taking to protect themselves, the TOR anonymizing service has seen a quadrupling of users from those lucky enough to be connected through Noor. The most promising possibility is in further development of wireless mesh networking. The Serval Project and the implementation of Wi-Fi direct mean we could only be a few years from a time when activists can set up ad-hoc networking that would be invisible to government detection.

Update 20:24 EST 1/28

I think today’s events have demonstrated that Maria Popov was right to call Malcolm Gladwell #wrong for decrying the use of social media for social change. More information does make a difference. We’ve seen important germination of these revolutions being conducted online before the governments were able to close down information networks. Wired has a fascinating account of the IT department of Tunisia and how Ben Ali was only barely cognizant of the danger of social media in facilitating coverage and organization. While Egypt’s Hosni Mubarak at least turned off the network, he only did it after there was enough online social networking to spark more real life gatherings. Another difference is the rise of Al-Jazeera and other satellite networks which are able to show coverage from different areas of the country. However, I think the biggest driver of these revolutions is demography, the youth bulge from high birth rates and declining mortality is causing bloated corrupt societies to start to show signs of age.


This post was originally going to be about Wikileaks, specifically the Swiss banker recently convicted for leaking the information of hundreds of ludicrously wealthy tax fraudsters. However the live-blogged revolution in Egypt makes for much more pressing discussion. (more…)