The protests in Egypt continue to dominate international headlines despite, and likely because of, the Egyptian government’s suppression and stripping of civilian’s rights to communication. Thus far, the government has successfully shut down the Internet all across Egypt, but hackers and large Web communications companies are working to help the Egyptian protesters as much as they can.
With the local Egyptian ISP’s now shut down, Egyptian citizens have to look for secondary ways to broadcast to the world what is happening. And thanks to Google and Twitter teaming up, protesters can share their situation on Twitter via phone call from any phone line, including land lines.
The phone numbers set up for Egyptians are +16504194196, +390662207294 or +97316199855, and once reached, the callers simply leave a voicemail, which will then be uploaded to Twitter with the hashtag #egypt, allowing them to easily broadcast their messages to the world.
Another alternative to helping Egyptians restore communication is now being created by Shervin Pishevar, an Internet entrepreneur in Palo Alto, California. This alternative is called the Open Mesh Project, which aims to turn regular laptops into Internet routers so that protesters can communicate with each other and hopefully connect to the rest of the world.
The idea behind this project is to use the computer’s software to let people connect to each other’s laptops via an ad hoc network, creating something that resembles a local Internet. With this improved mode of communication, the protesters can better organize their efforts, and can also share an Internet connection if one is picked up by anyone on the local network.
“This would at least let people build an ad hoc mobile network,” Pishevar said. “At the very least, people inside Egypt will be able to communicate with each other and organize… you could create a kind of secondary Internet, one that would not be blockable.”
With everyone scrambling to bring aid to Egypt, we all hope that the government and the protesters reach some kind of solution soon. Hopefully Google, Twitter, and Pishevar’s efforts will also help the protesters spread the word of what is happening, which will help to end all the chaos and violence resulting from the protests.