Review: Technology and the Rural Youth – A Surprising Journey with a Sociologist Through Morocco

By: Ben White
On: September 15, 2008
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About Ben White
I am a media professional with several years of international experience. I have worked on media projects in Europe, Central/Eastern Europe, the Middle East and Africa. I have a particular interest in the rise of internet and mobile tehnologies in emerging markets. This interest is an important part of my master's program at the University of Amsterdam.

Website
http://mediaflip.wordpress.com/    

 

 

 

 

 

Author: Fatima Mernissi

Original Text: 2004

Pages 240

Published in Italian and Dutch

 

 

 

Stereotype 1: Changes are most seen in the central part of Morrocco than in the more rural regions.

Stereotype 2: The technically developed west is superior then the weakened East, that since the Stone Age remains the same.

Stereotype 3: Graduates of the University generate more riches than those who never have the chance.

Stereotype 4: You are rich if you have a lot of money.

Stereotype 5: The conflict between man and woman will take centuries to solve.

Stereotype 6: The two cultures in Morocco (the Arabic and the Berber) are the source of many conflicts.

Stereotype 7: The populations living in the southern part of the country are called Berbers.

 

 

This is only a short list of the common generalizations Fatima Mernissi aims to dispel with her bookSheherazades Weblog. And if anything, she asks the reader to look beyond these generalizations in the effort to realize how fast Morocco is changing as a country.

 

 

It is no secret that Internet and mobile technology are quickly changing the way we live and work. Surprisingly, however, the impact of these technologies can best be seen in places other than Asia, Europe and North America. Increasingly, technology seems to have its greatest impact on places least suspected. This is only one of the many acute observations that come out of Fatima Mernissi’s latest book, the Sheherazades Weblog.

 

 

 

This latest book offers an interesting and unique look into the rising Internet culture in Morrocco. In the effort to connect the dots, we join Fatima Mernissi on a trip that extends well beyond the country’s urban centers and well into the highlands of the Atlas Mountains and the desert regions beyond.

 

 

 

It is in these more rural areas that we see the most dramatic change, the most creative use of new tools, and a combined community effort to harness their potential. It seems that communities in these remote areas have the most to gain from a digital revolution and at the same time can be the most creative in its uses.

 

 

 

One phenomenon that cannot be overlooked is the dating site revolution. A number of platforms have been mentioned in her book and are a testament to the desire and interest people have to connect and communicate. You can visit some of these websites, however, a few of them are no longer working. You can still look them up on the way back machine for an idea (http://www.archive.org/index.php).

 

 

 

Moroccan Dating sites :

www.imilchil.com

www.robatzoom.ma

www.unieis.co.ma

www.zawgaty.com

Note: Would be interested to know of new sites that might have replaced these services. Also, would be great to learn of other entrepreneurs in Morocco who have found there way successfully online. Feel free to share stories and update this posting with additional links.

 

 

 

But Morocco’s changes reach far beyond dating. Mobile and Internet are increasingly being used to introduce new and innovative services across the country. One website, that still remains a prominent information portal, was started by a young couple in Marrakech (www.emarrakech.info). The founders exemplify a new breed of young entrepreneurs looking to engage their fellow citizens, taking active roles in the democratiziation of information. It is in these young people where Fatima Mernissi sees one of the country’s greatest strengths.

 

 

 

“Either way, feeling at home between tradition and modernity is without a doubt one of the most exciting characteristics of the Morrocan youth, who one evening sing along to pop tunes and dance to the rhythms of the sama’ the next. I believe this is one of the secrets of the new Arabic generations.”

 

 

 

It is interesting to note that the original text was written in 2004. What makes my head spin is to imagine what has happened since Fatima Mernissi made these observations. Where is the revolution now ? It is no surprise that the mothers of some of Morocco’s most promising Internet entrepreneurs still weave traditional rugs. Of course if you are interested in buying one, you can always shop on SouthBazaar (www.southbazaar.com), a Moroccan based website dedicated to artists who might otherwise not have an online presence.

 

 

 

 

 

Interesting Statistics

MA – 34,343,219 population – Country Area: 458,730 sq km

Capital city: Rabat – population 1,754,425 (’08)

7,300,000 Internet users as of Mar/08, 21.3% of the population, per ITU.

390,800 broadband internet subscribers as of Sept/07, per ITU.

Source: Internet World Stats

 

 

 

Freedom of Use

 

“The government of Morocco does not restrict access to the Internet or censor content, according to several Internet users interviewed in Morocco. Accounts are easily obtained from dozens of private service providers, and users can access the unfiltered World Wide Web from home, the office, or one of many cybercafés operating in the big cities.” Read More

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