By Jawad Raza Khan
Much has been written on different conspiracy theories with regards to the Arab revolution. Opinion on any revolution is always diverse in nature but the point to ponder is not the cause of revolution but the tool used for this unprecedented mass movement in the Arab world.
Two incident in North Africa coupled with meaningful use of social networks like face book and twitter ignited hatred for Mubarak which forced end of his 30 year old despotic reign in Egypt.
It was in last June, two plainclothes policemen in Alexandria allegedly beat to death 28-year-old Khaled Said, a trade unionist, on the street in broad daylight. A Face book page entitled ‘We Are All Khaled Said’ was set up in response to the tragedy, and it quickly attracted thousands of followers.
Two years earlier, a 27-year-old woman, Israa’ Abd el-Fattah, was arrested for setting up another Face book page encouraging Egyptians to support a strike in the industrial city of al-Mahalla. Within days of setting it up, 70,000 people were supporting her page and this, in turn, led to huge riots and a confrontation with police in the city.
Eventually, her Face book action led to the setting up of an organization called The April 6th Movement.
As a matter of fact, it is a classical example how cyber media could convert the perception into reality, which could not be thought of, in a totalitarian environment of Arab world. Statistical analysis of this cyber intervention can be more informative and interesting for decision and policy making cadre of governments around the world.
According to web data available on internet, till Dec 2010, in Egypt out of total internet users 5.18% were regular Face book user. Statistics for Libya shows penetration of Face book up to 2.5% amongst the internet users. The mentioned Statistics cannot be in any case considered as healthy and mind boggling but what it could trigger, could not be imagined in the effected part of the world.
In my opinion Pakistan is not at all prone to this sort of revolution at least not in near future but what can be learned out of this is that social networking is an extremely powerful medium.
The said cyber intervention may be termed as a success story in terms public opinion making against authoritarian rules (with some reservations in the context of US interests) but one should remain mindful of its negative impacts on liberal but untamed societies. The question now arises, is this not the correct time to guide the masses regarding misuse of this Cyber Phantom or State of Pakistan will again be found sleeping as in the case of Electronic Media. When during Musharraf regime licenses were issued to private channel with no consideration regarding the credibility and ability of Government machinery for content management (in case of societal grooming) on these channels. It has become far more than embarrassing now to see an advertisement of ladies panties (Always) on all TV channels with little school girls not more than 14 – 15 years of age singing sheer embarrassment for complete family. No doubt freedom speech is essence for a developing society, but we should not forget the relativity of the term freedom. Developed societies train their mass media but in underdeveloped countries, unethical and that to only commercial mass media can only pollute it.
Coming back to cyber media, statistically Pakistan is just behind Libya with regards to the Face book penetration with 2.3%, but an important aspect is the cadre of population in which it is popular. As per the available data on the internet, the age wise distribution of Face book users in Pakistan can be thoughtful preposition for the policy makers.
User age distribution on Facebook in Pakistan:
Analysis shows that 52% of the total facebook penetration in Pakistan represents the youngest lot aged between 18-24 years of age. Does this data does not allow us to take some preventive measures with regards to mind proliferation of young generation and the best way is to make them feel responsible and important for the society and guiding them to discuss ethical and moral issues on social networks for the hale and hearty development of the society. Harnessing power through moral means is a case of channelizing it in constructive functions and the said channelizing can be forcefully done through involvement of youngsters using cyber media in constructive issues such as involving themselves in electoral process of the country. Following can be taken as guideline.
Convincing youngsters for registration in electoral lists for participation in elections.
Dissemination of noble causes on social networks.
And effective opinion making on national issues.
We should not make another R. Buckminster Fuller one of the great scientists of 19th century to say that “Humanity is acquiring all the right technology for all the wrong reasons”.