Years before launching Motoon, we have been at the center of multiple overlapping communities of techies, activists, artists and citizen journalists. Today, Motoon’s programs are set to interact with techies from varying backgrounds and interests to improve their technical skills, spread their knowledge far and find ways in which they can engage with society and support progressive causes through their skills.
We started in 2004 by founding Egypt’s first Free/Open Source Software community: the Egyptian GNU/Linux Users Group (EGLUG) and immediately connecting it to social causes working with schools and CSOs in underdeveloped communities. In 2005, we worked on growing and organizing the blogging community, promoting citizen journalism and placing it at the center of human rights and pro-democracy activism. In 2008, we founded the Arab Techies regional network to bring skilled techies from all over the Arab World together and build a pan-Arab community, share experiences and knowledge and collaborate on solving common problems.
We started as plumbers; young techies volunteering our skills to help whatever cause or group crossed our path: NGOs, schools, universities, writers, music bands, human rights organizations, activist groups, opposition political parties, campaigns, and charities. We helped them all, and in the process, we learned much and more about human rights, facilitation skills, teaching kids and training adults. The internet seemed wonderful but we couldn't find much local content. We thought we had nothing to say so we found people who knew what they wanted to say and helped them learn how to publish online through blogs, then helped them reach an audience by building aggregators. In the process, we found our voice and found new ways to forge a narrative. GNU/Linux seemed powerful but it was a pity we couldn't find many local users, so we traveled the country to spread the word about FOSS. The lack of Arabic support was a barrier for most so we set out to help localize it. In the process we learned about organizing, building communities and advocacy - and found out that we cared about Arabic the language, the identity, and the community. The deeper we delved into technology, the more interested we became in the causes and struggles we served, and as we got more involved in the causes, our roles shifted, from providing tech support, to localizing and adapting tools and to developing new solutions. The broader the communities we intersected with, the higher we ascended away from the role of the plumber. At some point, we found ourselves organizing, mobilizing, narrating and occasionally theorizing. But we never stopped plumbing, we never stopped localizing, we never stopped hacking, and we never stopped building communities centered around technology.