Even though Amr Sobhy is only 26 years old, he is already a veteran of spectacular fact-based journalism. In the mmediate aftermath of the 2012 Egyptian presidential election in 2012, the trained pharmacologist built Morsimeter with a colleague. Morsimeter is a website where the fulfilment of the election promises of the recently elected Muslim Brotherhood's Mohammad Morsi could be publicly followed.
During the election campaign, Morsi had agreed to 64 concrete reforms for the first 100 days of his government – he wanted to improve the country's security situation, as well as campaign for lower petrol prices and better bread. Inspired by the Obameter, the global public could now follow these promises via a website.
“We’re working with a lean approach” Amr explains. “I was just on the way to Deutsche Welle's social media forum in Bonn and programmed the first version of Morsimeter within 24 hours – the launch was in the middle of the night at 1:30 a.m.” The website quickly went viral. When Wael Ghonim, the political activist made famous by his Facebook page We Are All Khaled Said recommended the site, the server completely broke down. Many national and international media organisations, from CNN to the Tagesschau, picked up the story.
Following the successful quick launch, the activists began to concentrate on figuring out which indicators they could use to realistically measure political progress. Several thousand netizens used the occasion to report how their own lives had positively or negatively developed – reports that flowed into the measurements. When CNN wanted to report on Morsimeter, but the website was only in Arabic, the activists asked online “Hey people, who can quickly translate our site into English?”. A short time later, they had crowdsourced the English version of the site.
Morsimeter was not only a media success, but also contributed to a change in the political culture. Instead of dealing with with a new daily political scandal that by the following day would be forgotten, Morsimeter helped citizens remain focused on a single topic, and politicians were genuinely called to account.
Equally important was that activists in other countries began to use Morsimeter's open-source code to build their own accountability meters – the most successful imitation is Rouhanimeter, which examines the activities of the Iranian president Rouhani.
We discovered this case through our Lab Around the World research trip.