Egypt blackout: Google and Twitter to the rescue

I’ve been watching the news from Egypt both on television and on Twitter with some alarm these past few days, and one of the more troubling challenges coming from that nation is the fact that there is a complete blackout of all internet and cellphone communication. (By the way, President Obama has asked for this same authority to shut down the internet in the United States “if there ever is a need for it.”)

A group of engineers from Google, Twitter and SayNow have designed and launched a speak-to-tweet service for citizens and travelers stuck in Egypt this weekend.

The service allows users to send tweets by Skype or telephone by leaving a voicemail on one of three international phone numbers.  You and I can watch these tweets by going to Twitter and following the hashtag #egypt.

People can also listen to the messages by dialing the above numbers, and by clicking on the links posted to@speak2tweet.  Here’s what the engineers had to say about their innovative approach to the blackout in Egypt:

“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. 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.

We worked with a small team of engineers from Twitter, Google and SayNow, a company weacquired last week, to make this idea a reality. It’s already live and anyone can tweet by simply leaving a voicemail on one of these international phone numbers (+16504194196 or +390662207294 or +97316199855) and the service will instantly tweet the message using the hashtag #egypt. No Internet connection is required. People can listen to the messages by dialing the same phone numbers or going to twitter.com/speak2tweet.

We hope that this will go some way to helping people in Egypt stay connected at this very difficult time. Our thoughts are with everyone there.”

Posted by Ujjwal Singh, CoFounder of SayNow and AbdelKarim Mardini, Product Manager, Middle East & North Africa

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