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Kahrabtak: Mapping Egypt's Summer Electricity Blackouts

BY Lisa Goldman | Monday, August 13 2012

Screenshot taken from Kahrabtak.com homepage.

Egypt is experiencing an energy shortage this summer. To cope with an infrastructure breakdown, the government has instituted blackouts throughout the country — leaving people without air conditioning or fans for several hours each day, while daytime temperatures hover around 40 degrees Celsius (104 Farenheit); in some of the poorer areas there is no drinking water, since the pumps are run on electricity. Meanwhile, this is the month of Ramadan - when practicing Muslims abstain from food and drink during daylight hours.

The blackouts are now being mapped by Kahrabtak.com, the Egypt blackout map. According to Global Voices contributor Tarek Amr, who posted a link to the map on his Facebook page today, the email address for the curators of the map uses the same email domain address as the people who created the Morsi Meter, which purports to track whether or not Egypt's first democratically elected president is fulfilling his campaign promises.

President Morsi's government has come under some fire for his handling of the electricity crisis; Al Ahram newspaper reports that Egyptians on social media have been mocking recently appointed Prime Minister Hisham Qandil for exhorting people to save electricity by wearing cotton clothes and gathering in one air-conditioned room of the house.

Ahmed Naguib, a student at the American University of Cairo, points out that the government is depriving hospitals, subways and the poor residential districts of electricity for more hours per day than the rich areas, even as the rich consume far more electricity. "Poor people cannot afford air conditioners," comments Mr. Naguib, adding that the government is leaving the lights on Cairo's bridges illuminated until 10 or 11 in the morning, which he terms "insane."

Tarek Amr confirms that the electricity is cut off for far more hours in poor neighborhoods than in richer areas. He is not impressed by the Kahrabtak map, either. "What is the use of a crowdmap like this?" he asked rhetorically via email. "I don't think it has any use. Just eye candy visualization that people will forget about later on."