How to battle a dictator: Step 1, find some engineers
4/13/2011 1:15 PM EDT
Fascinating story in today’s Wall Street Journal about Ousama Abushagur and his merry band of engineers who have hijacked Libya’s telecommunications infrastructure to get rebel fighters and others back online.
Margaret Coker and Charles Levinson report:
To make that possible, engineers hived off part of the Libyana cellphone network—owned and operated by the Tripoli-based Libyan General Telecommunications Authority, which is run by Col. Gadhafi's eldest son—and rewired it to run independently of the regime's control. Government spokesman Moussa Ibrahim, asked about the rebel cellphone network, said he hadn't heard of it.
Until that point, Col. Moammar Gadhafhi’s forces had taken control of the network, forcing rebels to communicate on the battlefield with a decidedly old-school technology: flags.
Abushagur, an Alabama-raised and educated engineer, conceived the idea on—what else does an engineer-entrepreneur use?—the back of a napkin and leveraged his network of engineers and Middle Eastern contacts to make it all happen. (A video of an interview with The Journal's Coker is below),
He went to a high school named after the legendary astronaut Gus Grissom and, from 1998-2004, studied electrical engineering at the University of Alabama Huntsville. There, he was a student research assistant at UAH’s Nano Micro Fabrication Facility, where he helped develop a coating procedure for fiber optic cable
He lists his current role as vice president of business development for AOGC, working with various multinational technology companies to introduce them to Middle East market.
So the next time you get that sinking feeling that no one appreciates engineers or that your work is undervalued, think of Abushagur and his engineers. While it’s still early in the Libyan rebellion, they may have made a huge difference.