business news in context, analysis with attitude

by Kevin Coupe

The events in Egypt over the past week have received much coverage and will continue to, as the likelihood seems to be that things will not be resolved there quickly. But it is worth noting, for the greater lesson, the role that the internet - and most specifically, social media - is playing there.

Read the following paragraphs from yesterday’s New York Times:

“Fear is the dictator’s traditional tool for keeping the people in check. But by cutting off Egypt’s Internet and wireless service late last week in the face of huge street protests, President Hosni Mubarak betrayed his own fear — that Facebook, Twitter, laptops and smartphones could empower his opponents, expose his weakness to the world and topple his regime.

“There was reason for Mr. Mubarak to be shaken. By many accounts, the new arsenal of social networking helped accelerate Tunisia’s revolution, driving the country’s ruler of 23 years, Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali, into ignominious exile and igniting a conflagration that has spread across the Arab world at breathtaking speed. It was an apt symbol that a dissident blogger with thousands of followers on Twitter, Slim Amamou, was catapulted in a matter of days from the interrogation chambers of Mr. Ben Ali’s regime to a new government post as minister for youth and sports. It was a marker of the uncertainty in Tunis that he had stepped down from the government by Thursday.

“Tunisia’s uprising offers the latest encouragement for a comforting notion: that the same Web tools that so many Americans use to keep up with college pals and post passing thoughts have a more noble role as well, as a scourge of despotism. It was just 18 months ago, after all, that the same technologies were hailed as a factor in Iran’s Green Revolution, the stirring street protests that followed the disputed presidential election.”

If social networking can have such a profound affect on on people are governed, it does not seem like a big stretch to think that it also will affect how people shop ... the kind of transparency and responsiveness that they will demand and expect ... and how effective retailers will connect with their shoppers.

Of course, how people buy is a small thing compared to the greater issues we see spotlighted in the Middle East these days. But when we think about the how the world is changing ... and the factors that can affect our lives and businesses ... it is worth seeing what is happening in Egypt through a different prism.

And that’s our Eye-Opener for this morning.
KC's View: