Mauritanian social media: small in size but large in scope
Mauritania may very well have the highest rate of online activism per Internet user. There were only an estimated 34,000 Facebook users in the country at the end of 2011, but thousands have spoken out against government repression in the past year.
GlobalVoices editor Claire Ulrich recently conducted an interview with Nasser Weddady, an influential Mauritanian who is part of the diaspora. The answers to a handful of basic questions provide a unique glimpse into how Mauritanians are using the Internet:
- Quality over quantity: The Facebook page for last year’s February 25th movement is influential even though it claims only 750+ followers. Other pages have 3,000 and 10,000 fans (many are presumed to be Mauritanians living abroad).
- Formal Mauritanian blogs have largely disappeared in recent years, but Twitter is growing as a tool of communication.
- Young Mauritanians are also starting to learn Photoshop skills.
- Web censorship has, to date, been ineffective. Still, the threat looms.
Also intriguing is Mr. Weddady’s comment how Mauritania is unique in that the people are tied to both the Arab world and Sub-Saharan Africa. Perhaps Mauritania can use this position to combine the social momentum of Arab nations with the economic growth of SSA. Plus, a strong economy can mean better Internet access – something Mauritanians are eager to adopt.
For more information on social media’s growing role in Mauritania, read Claire Ulrich’s interview, “‘Facebook is at the Center of the New E-dissent’,” (trans. by Joel Gilbourd) over at GlobalVoices.