Technology Startup Helping Egypt in Time of Need

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Egypt has made front page news for the past week as social unrest has taken its toll on the country. In response to chronic rioting, the Egyptian government has shut down internet service to the county. This has prevented the country’s citizens from communicating with the outside world. Human rights organizations have condemned this action buy Google, in partnership with a technology startup that it recently acquired, has found a solution.

The world watched as the situation in Egypt continued to worsen but as the government attempted to squelch the problem by not allowing social media to be used to organize more demonstrations but Google, along with a technology startup it acquired called SayNow came up with a way to allow citizens to send tweets without the use of the internet.

SayNow got its start with the help of three venture capital firms. Co-founder Ujjwal Singh started the company because they believed that social media was mistakenly overlooking traditional voice mediums as a social network tool. They believed that because voice allows for emotion to be conveyed, it should be a main part of the social media experience.

The SayNow platform is released to 3rd party developers because it allows for voice conversations to be converted and posted on Myspace, Twitter, Facebook, and the many other social media outlets. This technology is currently in use by 15 million users which is how it got the attention of Google.

Google acquired SayNow on January 25th, 2011 which was, coincidentally, only days before the crisis in Egypt escalated to a worldwide news maker. After internet reporting agencies found that all four of Egypt’s internet service providers ceased offering service, Google and SayNow decided something needed to be done.  During the weekend of January 29th and 30th, they devised a way to use the SayNow system to allow users to communicate with the outside world.

The internet couldn’t be used to tweet so a low tech solution was employed. Egypt’s citizens could call a phone number and leave a message which is instantly turned in to a tweet and posted on Twitter. They can also use the same number to call in and listen to tweets posted to the hash tag #egypt.

SayNow executives said, “We hope that this will go some way to helping people in Egypt stay connected at this very difficult time,” said Singh and Mardini. “Our thoughts are with everyone there.”

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