BBK Magazine 41

200th Anniversary Edition

Awareness Raising as Activism

Amr Sobhy (MSc Public Policy and Management, 2016)

Amr Sobhy, an Egyptian information activist and entrepreneur, graduated from Birkbeck with a Master’s in Public Policy and Management in 2016. Amr balances a career in technology with activism work that involves developing specialist software to drive public awareness of local and global issues.

“I wanted to make sure people remembered Mohamed Morsi’s promises”

Making the world a better place is a focus for Amr: “I do a lot of non-profit work because I feel a moral obligation to get involved with issues that I can make a positive difference on.” During the Covid-19 pandemic, Amr created ‘Corona Meter’, an online dashboard where the public could visualise real-time global data on reported cases of Covid-19.

This passion for improving the lives of others began when Amr was in his early twenties. The 2011 Arab Spring anti-government protests began in his hometown of Cairo and Amr witnessed the corresponding surge in criminal activity. He became increasingly concerned for local people, who were subject to theft and bribery. In response, Amr set up ‘Zabatak’, which translates as ‘I caught you’ in Arabic. This website and app collect crime reports from citizens and display them as maps of criminal activity, helping local people to identify and avoid crime hotspots.

Amr has also used his technological skills to develop software to improve transparency around the actions of political leaders. When Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi was elected in 2012, he set up ‘MorsiMeter’, which tracked the President’s progress against his promises, holding him accountable to the 64 actions he promised to make in the first 100 days of his presidency. Amr comments: “Very little of the focus around election time is on what happens after a President is elected. I wanted to make sure people remembered Mohamed Morsi’s promises and thereby help ensure that the mandate on which he was elected continued to inform decision-making and policy.”

To develop his knowledge of activism and influencing change, Amr began a Master’s degree in Public Policy and Management at Birkbeck in 2015. He was struck by how the academics wanted to hear the perspectives of the students on different topics, and also appreciated the university’s flexibility, “Birkbeck is different from other universities as it enables you to have a professional life while receiving a top-quality education.”

Currently, Amr is working for a start-up that investigates financial crime, enabling banks to better detect fraud and money laundering. Technology has evolved greatly since he first began his career in 2010. Amr references a ‘dark side’ to all this innovation, in particular the advances in facial recognition technology and how this can threaten democracy if exploited by oppressive regimes. Despite this, he is positive about the benefits of technology: “The pace of innovation is remarkable, and I need to make sure I’m always learning to keep up with it. I always try to think about how I can be useful in mobilising social change for the better.”