Bad And/Or Good News: TIME Magazine Names General al-Sisi; Egypt’s New Tech Park

Added 12/10/13: What’s really puzzling is that the Egypt’s Defense Minister did not make it to TIME Magazine’s top ten finalists for 2013–a separate selection process that is distinct from last week’s readers’ poll.  But two other figures from the Middle East did make it: Hassan Rouhani…and Bashar al-Assad.  Call it “diverse”, and other PITAPALS call it “illogical”. PITAPOLICY calls it ridonculous since Bashar al-Assad is notorious for leading a regime that has earned Syria the sad title of “worst human rights offender among 197 countries”, according to the 2014 Human Rights Risk Atlas.  All occurring around December 10th’s “Human Rights Day”.   (Note: TIME magazine will determine Person of the Year for its much anticipated cover on Wednesday, December 11th.)  Please TIME Magazine, do not confuse controversial with stupidity when selecting among the most infamous.  Top Ten finalists include Pope Francis, Edward Snowden, and Miley Cyrus.

“Controversial and popular are not synonymous,” we tweeted, shortly after TIME Magazine announced that General al-Sisi won Person of the Year, according to its audience world poll.  Surely, the al-Sisi name is both controversial because of the June 30th events and his role as a military leader while Mohammed Morsi faced public outcry calling for his resignation. 

For that same reason, al-Sisi is popular with different segments in the so-called “liberal” or “conservative” or dare we try to use the term “secular” Egyptian citizenry.  al-Sisi, like many other strong military actors prompt PITAPOLICY to ask: is there a word that has the same power of “secular” that also means calling for a separation of state from another important institution, like military, as proscribed by secularists regarding the role of state that must be distinct and unperturbed by “Church” or any religious institution.

Apparently, before Egypt’s 2014 Presidential election, the interim leadership is winning a TYPE of popularity…or for those who are traditionally wary of the military role in Egypt: notoriety.  Either way, the TIME vote demonstrated how al-Sisi has been a household name.  Will this, albeit unscientific, poll signal a “Go Ahead” to General al-Sisi to throw his name in the presidential run?  Will he take off his military uniform prior to officially running?  We recommend reading Ashraf Khalil‘s piece challenging the wisdom of pop culture versus the elections ballot.  As Khalil points out, no limits to how many times a voter could vote.   We include some truly straight-forward good news, regarding Egypt’s new technology business startup park,  to balance the indeterminate good/bad news of Time’s naming Person of the Year @TIMEPERSONoftheYear.

INTERESTS & IMPACT

How Egypt’s General al-Sisi Won TIME Person of the Year (link: http://poy.time.com/2013/12/06/how-egypts-gen-al-sisi-won-times-person-of-the-year-poll/)

When TIME announced on Thursday that Egypt’s Defense Minister, Gen. Abdul Fattah al-Sisi, had topped TIME’s 2013 Person of the Year poll with more than 440,000 votes his supporters were triumphant. Ahmed Abu Hashima, an Egyptian steel magnate and Sisi supporter, was one of the first to publicly congratulate Sisi on Twitter. Writing in Arabic, he called the victory an, “appreciation for [Sisi’s] national role and the love of Egyptians towards him.”

Sisi’s success reflected the genuine popularity of a man who led what was essentially a military coup in July against the democratically elected government of then President Mohammed Morsi. Sisi remains the most powerful political figure in Egypt. The win was driven by hundreds of thousands of votes from inside Egypt; the country of about 85 million provided more votes than more populous nations like India and the United States. Many of those voters came via websites like Alwafd.org, one of the several Egyptian news portals that drove voters to the poll. These included youm7.com and el-balad.com. These sites tracked the voting throughout the week and informed readers when voting would close and how close the gap was between Sisi and the person who came second, Turkey’s Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

Hopefully one the upcoming presidential voting process will not replicate the TIME global audience poll…and rather, will protect against repeat voting.

Technology

Just off Tahrir Square, first companies move into Cairo’s new tech park…by Damian Radcliffe for Heat Sink

This week will see the first tenants move into a new technology park in downtown Cairo, after The American University in Cairo leased its Greek Campus to the Tahrir Alley Technology Park for a period of 10 years.

The site, which is just off Tahrir Square, has been vacant since 2008 when much of AUC moved to a $400m, 260-acre campus in ‘New Cairo’ — an area to the east of the historic city.

Ahmed El Alfi, founder of Tahrir Alley Technology Park (TATP), told ZDNet that the first tenants will move in this week and the organisation is expecting “full occupancy in a year”.

Bought by The American University in Cairo (AUC) from Cairo’s Greek community in the 1960s, the site’s five buildings will offer tenants flexible working spaces ranging from 60m2 to 1,400m2, alongside “daycare, a gym, food court, daily technical lectures” as well as social activities such as “concerts and a rock-climbing wall”, Alfi said. [Click here to continue.]

PITAPOLICY RESPONSE: We love the creativity even behind the name “GrEEK”, which is a play on the ‘Tech Geek’ phenomena.  Sure, the execution of the concept  Here’s our earlier analysis on the broader expansion of Arab professionals jumpstarting technology in MENA. let’s put the non-Arab countries in MENA to the side for a moment. Instead, let’s refocus on reviewing the three factors that jumpstart technology entrepreneurship and innovation: 1) talent; 2) people networks, and 3) funding.

Factors #1 & #2: Talent and People

Talent and great people networks exist in many MENA countries, as was evidenced by the debate by Arab Technology CEOs speaking at the Arab Net Conference. Indeed, Arab Net is a real-life example of this. Arab Net Summit, founded by Omar Christidis, holds technology entrepreneur competitions on both the individual and business level. For example, Qordoba’s online program to create Arabic content online, beat nine other startups–each representing different interests ranging from online gaming to educational missions.


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