Thursday, February 3, 2011

Vodafone network 'hijacked' by Egypt

From the BBC ...

Mobile phone firm Vodafone has accused the Egyptian authorities of using its network to send unattributed text messages supporting the government.

Vodafone was told to switch off services last week when protests against President Hosni Mubarak began.

But the authorities then ordered Vodafone to switch the network back on, in order to send messages under Egypt's emergency laws, the firm said.

In a statement, Vodafone described the messages as "unacceptable".

"These messages are not scripted by any of the mobile network operators and we do not have the ability to respond to the authorities on their content."

Likely cost

The Paris-based Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development says that the government clampdown on internet services may have cost the Egyptian economy as much as $18m (£11m) a day or $90m in total.

The impact of the communications block could be even greater, as it would be "much more difficult in the future to attract foreign companies and assure them that the networks will remain reliable", said the OECD in a statement.

In another development, the credit ratings agency Fitch has downgraded the Egypt's debt grade by one notch to BB from BB+, citing the consequences of the continuing political unrest on the economy.

The country's debt grade has already been downgraded by two other ratings agencies, Moody's and Standard & Poor's.


The estimation of the economic impacts of the network shutdown are interesting, but I found the reporting on how the Egyptian government used the Vodafone network to disseminate propaganda more relevant to our in-class discussions.

1 comment:

Kelly said...

While obstructing information is one form of depressing economic and social progress, dominating political conversation via texts and cell phone use seems like an even more invasive form of oppression. This links back to our class discussion on the “internet kill switch,” which, in my opinion, would essentially create a greater economic loss for the United States than occurred in Egypt should the U.S. government ever enact the switch under either legitimate or invalid threat.

Since Egypt is ranked among the highest of Middle Eastern countries in terms of having a free press (http://www.economist.com/node/18065663), it puts a perspective on the lack of global access that citizens of other nations within this region experience due to governmental controls.

Also, I thought this was an interesting article about China’s technological response to Egypt’s turmoil. http://www.economist.com/node/18065655. "In response to the unrest in Egypt, the department has apparently instructed the Chinese media to use only dispatches sent by the official news agency, Xinhua, and either to bury news of events there or play up aspects that show the costs of turmoil"