Now that the euphoria of revolution is waning in Egypt, the hard work has begun to figure out what comes next. Last week, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton announced the U.S. is setting aside $150 million to help Egypt with that process. Now Alec Ross, Clinton’s senior advisor for innovation, tells Fast Company that a portion of that money will probably go toward helping Egyptians learn about and use digital tools to facilitate the process of transition.
In the coming months, Ross says, the State Department will likely devote
some of the $150 million to helping Egyptian organizations and
individuals learn about digital tools and practices they can use to help
their country move through the transition. How much money might be
allocated and what exactly it would be used for is currently undecided.
Two State Department officials traveled to Egypt this week to assess the
best use of the funds.
“It’s reasonable to assume there could be a role for technology within
that,” Ross says. “The key for us is to help them understand what the
tools are and then for them to adopt and adapt them for their own
For a little more than a year, the State Department has pursued a policy called “Civil Society 2.0,” designed to help build the digital capabilities of grassroots organizations around the world working for democracy, human rights, and economic development. The digital activism that led to the uprisings in Tunisia and Egypt embodied the principles of that policy, in that everyday people used technology to organize and advocate for what they wanted.
It’s unchartered territory. A country has never been toppled as quickly and as bloodlessly as Egypt was. There is no clear road map about what to do next. In this environment, the State Department plans some good old-fashioned experimentation to discover best practices. There will probably even be an opportunity for reverse learning. “[The Egyptians] are sophisticated themselves,” Ross says. “Given the tools and resources, the Egyptian people can make the highest and best use of them.”
[Image: Flickr user Al Jazeera English]