April 23, 2011 at 4:05 PM ET
The Google executive who helped spark this year's popular revolt in Egypt says he's taking a "long-term sabbatical" from the tech company and setting up a nongovernmental organization to help Egyptians with their transition to the post-Mubarak era.
Wael Ghonim, a 30-year-old Egyptian, is in charge of Google's marketing operation in the Middle East and Africa. He launched an anonymous Facebook page in honor of Khaled Said, a 28-year-old businessman who died last June at the hands of Egypt's undercover police.
Protests over Said's death quickly escalated into a wider outcry against Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak's regime, and on Jan. 27, Ghonim was snatched off the streets of Cairo and held blindfolded in detention. After his release, he took a highly visible role in the anti-Mubarak protests, which culminated in the ouster of Mubarak.
Since then, Ghonim has been calling on the outside world to pour investments into Egypt and help revive its tourist industry. "I would say to the American citizens, 'Come and visit us and see the new spirit of the ... Egyptian people,'" he said last week.
Today, Ghonim said in a Twitter update that he would turn his focus more fully to Egypt's reconstruction: "Decided to take a long term sabbatical from Google and start a technology-focused NGO [nongovernmental organization] to help fight poverty and foster education in Egypt."
Could this be a steppingstone toward a career in Egyptian politics? Or is the rise of social media in the Arab world — in Tunisia, Egypt, Bahrain, Yemen and even Syria — such a powerful force that Ghonim will already be in the "sweet spot" for the intersection of technology, politics and society? Feel free to weigh in with your comments about technology's potential impact on global society.
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