The Internet Commercialization in Egypt: Challenges and Opportunities

Dr. Tarek Kamel (
Manager of Communication


This paper describes the evolution of the Internet services in Egypt from its birth in the academic sector up to its commercial take off. It addresses the main lessons learned to face the infrastructure limitations in a developing country as well as the new role of the government to play a catalytic role in a partnership with the private sector to promote the value added information services in the country. It concludes with the description of the opportunities and the challenges to establish a strong Internet society and community in Egypt.



The Internet is a major revolutionary phenomena in the area of telecommunication and information technology in the 20th century. It has opened new opportunities for a networked society and it has established new concepts for human communication and interaction. The social and technical effects of the Internet are enormous and revolutionary in the developed as well as in the developing world.

The classical roles of telecommunication monopolies in the developing countries are changing under the new concepts in the Internet: services integration, multimedia access, the evolution of value added service providers and content providers. This evolution has already opened new venture and job opportunities for a new generation and it challenges as well the continuity of other traditional roles of various entities and individuals.

There are various experiences in the developing countries describing how the networked society is being transferred from a limited experiment within the academic community to a countrywide and global network. These experiments have generated new challenges and opportunities on the technical and business levels. This paper outlines the Egyptian experience in that aspect.

The Internet Development in Egypt: A Historical Background

The Internet services started in Egypt in October 1993 via a 9.6K link between the Egyptian Universities Network and France carrying the Bitnet as well as the Internet traffic. The user community was estimated by that time with about 2000 users. In 1994 the Egyptian domain was divided into three major subdomains: the academic subdomain ( and which is served via the Egyptian Universities Network (EUN), the commercial subdomain ( and the governmental subdomain ( which is served via a partnership between the Information and Decision Support Center and the Regional Information Technology and Software Engineering Center IDSC/RITSEC (See Fig. 1).

[Fig. 1]

The interconnectivity has been drastically improved in 1994 by the provision of a 64k digital access to France in cooperation between IDSC and the EUN and Egypt Telecom, by the setup of a number of digital multiplexors as the first digital backbone for data communication in the country. The fiber connectivity was made available on SEMEWE-2 and thus the basic obstacles of the Infrastructure limitations have been overcome.

The Current Structure of the Internet in Egypt

The following section will describe the structure of the Internet Universe in Egypt. Fig. 2 illustrates this universe with all its components: the basic infrastructure, the gateways, the ISPs as well as the various users.

[Fig. 2]
[Fig. 3]

The Internet Evolution in Egypt from an Academic to a Commercial Network:

Challenges and Opportunities

In 1994, and as it has been mentioned above the basic foundations for the connectivity were set, so that the Internet could become a public service and not only a service in the educaioal sector. Therefore IDSC decided to raise awareness about the Internet services in the commercial community and provided free accounts for Egyptian corporations. This was done with the financial support of the Egyptian government to open the country to the rest of the world. This step has educated the market and has shown the advantages of the Internet services to the public community. The basic foundation for starting a strong commercial Internet community in the country were set:

Market awareness and potential, limited but sufficient infrastructure

deployment as described in the last section as well as a general policy and approach to open the country and to liberalize its value added information services. The government represented by IDSC and Egypt Telecom has started an initiative for the development of an Internet backbone and gateway facility with reasonable prices to be used by the private sector ISP. This has been achieved by the establishment of the above mentioned high speed gateway at IDSC and by opening this gateway for the use of various ISPs.

Egypt has now over sixteen operational ISP in Cairo, Alexandria, Sinai and the Red Sea area providing their basic Internet services for the commercial enterprises and the individual users. The government will further support the academic and the governmental sector with its services. The catalytic role of the government will continue to support the newly established ISP to establish a strong industry for value added information services in the country and to promote the tourism, the culture and the various economic activities in Egypt as a base for socio-economic development.

The Internet commercialization in Egypt has opened various opportunities for the networked society and has generated new challenges as well.


The following points highlight the major opportunities attached with the Internet commercialization in Egypt:


Inspite of the big growth there is still a number of challenges in various areas that the Internet community in Egypt has to face:

Summary and Conclusion

To conclude, it is clear that Egypt's newly established Internet community and society has revolutionized a lot of concepts in the country. New challenges for the public and private sectors as well as for the government and individuals has been put and should be tackled in a new way of thinking with decentralization and deregulation. New opportunities are being opened for the country with the creation of jobs and investment ventures in the value added services as well as in the content building.


  1. Lynch, M. Rose, "Internet System", Addison & Wesley, 1993.
  2. El Sherif, "The Regional Information Highway", Keynote presentation at the Regional networking seminar, Cairo, December 1994.
  3. Kamel & N. Abel Baki, "The Communication Infrastructure and the Internet Services as a Base for a Regional Information Highway", Inet'95 Proceedings, Hawaii, June 1995.

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