Tunisia has consistently been blinking on my internet radar this past week. The ‘Jasmine Revolution’ as they call it; resulted in the ousting of Ben Ali, the once strong fisted ruler of Tunisia and darling of the so called ‘Western Friends’ who betrothed him once he opened up Tunisia’s economy to their interests.

Many theories have been put across as to how the revolution happened; did Twitter and other social media networks play a significant role as in the Iranian election protests in 2009? Some respected quarters say, given the state of many of the unemployed youth, it’s only natural for a crisis to erupt with or without technology as per the opinion of Luke Alnutt a social media and society analyst.

A careful look at the numbers certainly suggests that technology and social media to be precise is a catalyst.

Tunisia Numbers Summary | Jan 2011 | © SoudHyder.com 2011

By definition mobile phones constitute ‘plain vanilla’ social media networks and systems. Jargon and definition aside we have 20% of the country on Facebook, at least 33% connected to the internet and 90% on mobile phone. This is a super connected network with high information throughput. Growth of Tunisia’s economy over the past 5yrs would bear tribute to such attributes. So whether the revolution was planned or spontaneous, active or proactive the fact is that in an information age the emergent attributes of networks win the day. Gurus will form herds and lead them to a common agenda. Certain influential nodes in the network instigated the riots and the result was a euphoric wave that took the status quo by surprise.

Strong fisted, tightened and forceful reaction does not work in an information age, information spreads like wildfire and people react to the information. The key is controlling the information and swaying opinion not that I’m calling for dictatorial tendencies, but the spread of information should be countered by more information and the truth, factual and objective always wins the heart of the crowd.

Where I come from in Kenya, about 65% of the population has access to mobile phones. Almost 50% of the population has direct or indirect access to pervasive mobile money transfer service dubbed M-PESA which turned over about 20% of our GDP in 2010, turning it into a mega pseudo bank of sorts. These are outstanding numbers exhibiting stylised facts of knowledge and information backed economies. In retrospect, maybe Adam Smith’s ‘Invisible Hand’ theory does have a place in an information age. One cannot absolutely control information and information and its resultant exchange amongst agents will find its own equilibrium. As much as people will plan, plot and theorise, the fate of Africa’s future is in the hands of the informed African players participating in building their own futures. Whichever way you look at it, the African revolution certainly has begun!

Data Sources:

1. http://english.alrroya.com/content/tunisia-mobile-phone-subscribers-increase-26pct

2. http://www.socialbakers.com/homepage/search/?query=tunisia

3. http://www.rferl.org/content/tunisia_can_we_please_stop_talking_about_twitter_revolutions/2277052.html?page=1&x=1#relatedInfoContainer

4. http://www.newsweek.com/2011/01/15/tunisia-protests-the-facebook-revolution.html


COMMENTS / ONE COMMENT

Great article. I never quite saw a revolution been made through the internet in Kenya but its happening!

Kagonya added these pithy words on Jan 17 11 at 15:22

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