Monocolumn: Forget Your Mobile Phone In Libya

In the daily column from Monocle magazine we learn that as a result of the large part that social networks and cell phones played in Egypt’s revolution, Libya shut down the internet and mobile networks early on, and the advantage that provided them.

 

Monocolumn is Monocle’s daily bulletin of news and opinion. Catch up with previous editions here.

Throughout the Arab Spring, social networks have played a key role in spreading messages among activists and getting news out to the wider world. But in Libya’s slow moving war, it’s been a struggle just to get a working phone line.

Early on in the fight against Colonel Gaddafi, the Tripoli regime shut down the internet and mobile phone networks, leaving Libyans struggling to contact each other or to reach the outside world.

“Internet, mobile, fixed line, everything was centralised in Tripoli,” explains Dr Majid Ashibani, a telecommunications expert in the western rebel enclave of Misurata. “If you want to make a phone call on your mobile, the switching would take place in Tripoli.”

Almost immediately, the people of the rebel-held territories began working hard to restore telecommunications.

One of the early heroes of the revolution was Mohammed Nabbous, owner of a small computer company who brought his equipment to the Benghazi courthouse, where he set up an independent internet connection and began live-streaming raw video feed of the revolution to the world. On 19 March he was killed while out reporting around Benghazi.

Another early innovator was Ousama Abushagur, a 31-year-old Libyan telecoms executive based in Abu Dhabi, who led a team of engineers to restart Libyana, one of the country’s two mobile phone networks.

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Monocolumn is Monocle’s daily bulletin of news and opinion. Click here to read more, or here to subscribe to the monthly magazine.

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