Wednesday, November 29, 2006

The Google Revolution

Google has been accused of many things: patent infringement, intellectual copyright violations, and even (by some) of attempting to take over the world. But the Financial Times has leveled another accusation at the media mogul. Apparently, Google Earth has been boosting democratic activism in the Middle Eastern country of Bahrain. According to last Sunday’s issue of the Financial Times, Google Earth is inspiring a revolution in the tiny kingdom.

Ever since the government of Bahrain blocked Google Earth due to its privacy violations of royal palaces, nearly everyone in the country has been Googling their nation. As is common with situation like this, the governmental ban has brought the use of the internet – and the visitation to banned websites – back in vogue. For instance, traffic on the website of the Bahrain Centre for Human Rights has increased three times. The opening up of Bahrain to technological advancement has had some surprising results.

Through using Google Earth, every Bahraini can see the societal stratification which exists in the region. Bahrain businessman Mahmood al-Yousif had this to say about the effect Google is having upon the country: “Some of the palaces take up more space than three or four villages nearby, and block access to the sea for fishermen. People knew this already. But they never saw it. All they saw were the surrounding walls.” Mr. Yousif and other activists believe that the increasing use of technology will lead to a more egalitarian society.

According to the Financial Times, unemployment is endemic among the lower classes. Up to 80% of the available land is owned by the aristocracy and royals, giving the lower classes little opportunity for advancement. As more and more people log on to the internet and visit their miniscule kingdom from cyberspace, the disproportionate wealth and land distribution will become even more apparent. In much the same way that technology is opening up China to outside influence, the increasing us of the internet – especially Google Earth – may bring the country of Bahrain out of the shadows and into the light of democracy


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