|Beginning 2004, the open source movement in Arabic grew rapidly and tremendously. A group of Arabic language programmers worked to localize software that helped bring blogging and social media platforms to the Arabic speaking world. They founded Egypt’s first Free/Open Source Software community: the Egyptian GNU/Linux Users Group (EGLUG) and immediately connecting it to social causes working with schools and SCOs in underdeveloped communities. In 2005, they worked on growing and organizing the blogging community, promoting citizen journalism and placing it at the center of human rights and pro-democracy activism. In 2008, they founded the Arab Techies regional network to bring skilled techies from all over the Arab World together and build a pan-Arab community, share experiences and knowledge and collaborate on solving common problems. They started as plumbers; young techies volunteering their skills to help whatever cause or group crossed their path: NGOs, schools, universities, writers, music bands, human rights organizations, activist groups, opposition political parties, campaigns and charities. They support these efforts, and in the process, they learned about human rights, facilitation skills, teaching kids and training adults. The internet seemed wonderful but there was not much local content. They helped activists publish online through blogs, then helped them reach an audience by building aggregators. In the process they Arab techies found their voice and found new ways to forge a narrative. The broader the communities they intersected with, the higher they ascended away from the role of the plumber. At some point before the revolution, they found themselves organizing, mobilizing, narrating and occasionally theorizing. But they never stopped plumbing, they never stopped localizing, they never stopped hacking, and they never stopped building communities centered around technology.|
In this statement, I choose to think through this work from a feminist lens. I wonder how a feminist approach has informed the work of Arab techies? And I wonder how we might be able to harness what we have build to help build new civic imaginations.