Early last week, protests broke out in Egypt and immediately, the government responded by blocking social networks like Twitter, and later Facebook and Google. Then, the government took the extreme step of shutting down nearly every ISP in the country, even blocking Blackberry and SMS. Today, the final slice of the Internet pie, a smaller ISP that provided access to key financial institutions, was also taken down.
In the meantime, Google got together with Twitter and one of its most recent acquisitions, SayNow, to create a speech-to-tweet service to help Egyptians get the word out using voice lines.
The company wrote on its blog that, "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." They came up with the tweet-to-speech project over the weekend:
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.
Already, the service is being used and you can listen to one woman describe the situation in Egypt, saying that there is word that they will again lose phone service and be unable to even communicate via phone. According to the speak2tweet account, users don't need an account, so the service is open to all.
If nothing else, much of what this situation in Egypt has proven is that there is little way to completely disconnect a people from communicating with the rest of the world, even if you shut down every major ISP in the country. ReadWriteWeb's Curt Hopkins has been keeping an eagle eye on the situation there and reports the variety of legacy technologies in use to keep people connected. Speak2Tweet is just another example of how current and legacy technologies can be paired together to bridge the gap.
To listen in, check out the stream of audio Tweets coming in from Egypt. The only thing we need now is audio translation tools. What do you say, Google? Now would be the perfect time to bust out with the real-time audio translations, don't you think?