Old tech lets Egyptians' voices be heard

Posted by Emma Woollacott

Google and Twitter have come up with a way to let Egyptians tweet despite the country's internet shut-down.

The two companies - together with SayNow, a small firm which Google rather conveniently acquired last week - have launched a voice-based service to let locals get their message out.

"Over the weekend we came up with the idea of a speak-to-tweet service—the ability for anyone to tweet using just a voice connection," say Ujjwal Singh, cofounder of SayNow and product maanger for the middle east and north Africa.

Anyone with the cash for an international phone call can leave a voicemail on one of three phone numbers  - +16504194196, +390662207294 or +97316199855 - and the service will instantly tweet the message using the hashtag #egypt.

People can listen to the messages by dialing the same phone numbers or going to twitter.com/speak2tweet.

And French provider French Data Network (FDN) is also offering Egyptians a line ot the outside world.

"FDN has decided to open a small window on the network by giving access to anyone interested a modem access account," says the company. "We hope by this action to contribute to the freedom of expression of the Egyptian people and allow them to keep a connection with the rest of the world."

Anyone in Egypt who has access to a analog phone line can connect to the network using a French phone number - +33 1 72 89 01 50. Login and password are both 'toto'.

The moves come as the last remaining Egyptian ISP, Noor Group, goes offline. According to internet analysis form Renesys, it became unavailable at around 20.45 UTC.

"Trying to ban the internet in this century is a bit like trying to ban the wheel in centuries past," says Renesys VP Earl Zmijewski. "With each hour that passes, the uncertainty grows over the ultimate economic impact on Egypt's people of this unprecedented internet blackout."

Noor Group remained online for several days after the rest of the country's ISPs were shut down - possibly because of its impressive and international clinet list, which includes Coca-Cola and Nestle, as well as the Egyptian Stock Exchange.