|Mubarak speaking to the nation in Cairo said will not seek re-election [AFP]|
Internet services were at least partially restored in Cairo after a five-day blackout aimed at stymieing protests against Hosni Mubarak’s regime.
Egypt’s four main internet service providers cut off access to their customers in a near simultaneous move overnight last Thursday, two days after anti-Mubarak protests – many coordinated via the internet – kicked off across the country.
Social networking sites such as Twitter and Facebook, which have become increasingly important tools for protesters, activists and organisers, are still inaccessible to users.
Only a tiny number of users in the Egyptian capital were able to access the internet since Friday.
The United States, which provides Egypt with huge financial and military support, had called on Egyptian authorities to restore the service. But Cairo simply ignored that call.
Internet on mobile telephones was also disconnected, while mobile voice and text services were also severely disrupted.
Around 23 million Egyptians have either regular or occasional access to the internet, according to official figures, more than a quarter of the population.
The shutdown in Egypt was the most comprehensive official electronic blackout of its kind, experts said.
On Wednesday, internet users celebrated the return of access, including estr4ng3d on Twitter: “Tweeting from the middle of Tahrir Sq. – internet is back in #Egypt #jan25.”
Google, in response to the internet blockade in Egypt, said on Monday that it had created a way to post messages to microblogging service Twitter by making telephone calls.
Working with Twitter, Google acquired SayNow, a startup specialising in social online voice platforms, to make it possible for anyone to “tweet” by leaving a message at any of three telephone numbers.
“Like many people we’ve been glued to the news unfolding in Egypt and thinking of what we could do to help people on the ground,” Google product manager Abdel-Karim Mardini and SayNow co-founder Ujjwal Singh said in a blog post.
“Over the weekend we came up with the idea of a speak-to-tweet service – the ability for anyone to tweet using just a voice connection,” they said.
Voice mail messages left at +16504194196; +390662207294 or +97316199855 will instantly be converted into text messages, referred to as tweets, and posted at Twitter with an identifying “hashtag” of #egypt.
Twitter hashtags are intended as search terms so people can more easily find comments related to particular topics or events.
People can call the same numbers to listen to messages or hear them online at twitter.com/speak2tweet