Throwing out President Hosni Mubarak was the easy part. Building a democracy is the hard one.
Egypt will have its first post-revolution parliamentary elections this fall, and political activists are finding new methods to engage voters. These include social media and crowdsourcing, which are tools utilized to raise discussions about the new constitution. Egyptians hope that technology helps them build a better nation.
But can technology really aid in creating a democracy? Is the role of technology in Egypt hyped, or does Facebook, Twitter and crowdsourcing really empower Egyptians the way they need? What is the real impact of the cloud and online citizen participation in the post-revolution era in Egypt? Can the impact be replicated in other countries?
We want to find answers to these questions.
We will start our coverage in Silicon Valley by following several projects in which volunteers build technological solutions for Egyptians. A crowdsourcing platform for discussing the new constitution has already been constructed in a series of hackathons at Stanford - upon request by Egyptian non-profits - and more tools will follow.
We want to follow this story from Stanford to the streets of Cairo. We will travel to Cairo in August, prior to the election, to document the outcome of these new online tools and to interview people on the ground.
We are fundraising for the travel costs to Egypt: for two flight tickets to Cairo, accommodation costs (motel/hostel) for two weeks for two persons and for ground transportation costs.
We will blog about our findings along the way on Spot.Us, Huffington Post and JournalismForPeace.com. As a result of the process, we will also gather a network of core stakeholders in the digital activism scene: activists, experts, non-profits, researchers.
This story is a part of a larger project about Peace Journalism. It will all result in a non-fiction book about the changing role of journalism in conflict resolution.
Tanja Aitamurto is a Finnish freelance journalist and Ph.D. student based in Palo Alto, California. She is studying collective intelligence as a visiting research at Mechanical Engineering at Stanford. She has done reporting widely around the world in places such as Afghanistan and in several countries in Africa. She has reported about landline detecting from the post-war Angola, refugee camps in Kenya and diamond mines in Namibia.
Hanna Sistek is a Swedish freelance journalist based in Delhi, India, since 2006. During winters she is covering the South Asian subcontinent, reporting mainly on international affairs, terrorism and human rights, with frequent travels to Afghanistan and Pakistan. She has worked on five continents, been embedded twice in Afghanistan, couchsurfed activists in Iran, followed the trails of Al Shabaab in Nairobi, portrayed political authors in the U.S. and explored American detention policies in the War on terror.
More about the reporters here.
The role of technology in Arab Spring has gained a lot of attention, but the impact of new tools such as social media can be overhyped. The real value of crowdsourcing and other new methods has to be investigated to reveal their real potential and challenges in building democracy.