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Egypt, Tunisia: Generation TXT Comes of Age?

BY Micah L. Sifry | Tuesday, February 1 2011

While I completely agree with Matthew Ingram, whose post "It's Not Twitter or Facebook, It's the Power of the Network" should be must-reading as an antidote to all the overheated media commentary about which tech tool is most responsible for the revolutions in Tunisia and Egypt, I have one wrinkle to add. The biggest factor in the unfolding events, to me, appears to be the emergent power of young people, compounded by how urbanized they are and how connected they are by mobile phones.

If you look at the available data on degree of internet penetration, number of mobile cellular subscriptions per 100 people, percentage of population under the age of 15 and degree of urbanization, what jumps out is how the last three factors seem to matter more.


[Sources: MobileActive.org, InternetWorldStats.com, GlobalHealthFacts.org]

With the exception of Yemen, mobile coverage in the other five countries I've focused on--Egypt, Tunisia, Syria, Jordan and Iran--hovers between 98% and 100%.

Finally, the pace of mobile phone penetration has exploded, far faster than internet penetration. With the exception of Jordan, which boasted a 23% mobile phone subscription rate in 2002, in the other five countries mobile ownership was in the single digits--just six percent in Egypt and Tunisia back then. That has skyrocketed in 2007 to 76% in Tunisia and 40% in Egypt, according to MobileActive.org.

Could it be that what we're witnessing is the political coming of age of Generation TXT?

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