The Internet population is growing. 4 Billion new Internet users will connect for the first time in the next 8 years. The Internet was meant to open up dialogue, foster new ideas and provide access to information. Online censorship and restrictions imposed by governments and content providers have put Net Neutrality under threat. People no longer have equal access to information.
We want to put a spotlight on the importance of an open Internet and the implications of a restricted Internet, by telling real stories of real people whose (professional) lives were transformed thanks to the Internet. We want to know what private, unrestricted Internet means for the Next 4 Billion Minds coming online in the next 8 years. Our series consists of interviews with inspiring entrepreneurs from all over the world whose success was created online.
Meet Nouran Walid Soliman. Aged only 19, she is the youngest entrepreneur in Egypt. Thanks to having access to the Internet, Nouran was able to launch numerous successful startups and help many others follow her path. At the age of 13 she had already established the first online bookstore in her town, and now she is supporting like-minded entrepreneurs and businesses by educating them to use the power of the Internet.
Below is an abstract of our interview with Nouran.
Tell me about yourself. What is your background?
Nouran: I’m Nouran Walid Soliman (AKA the youngest female entrepreneur in Egypt). I’m the founder and CEO of Robust Teens, which is the first online entrepreneurship school in Egypt, mainly for teenagers and youngsters who are aiming to launch their first startup at a young age. I also started my career in graphic design 7 years ago.
When did you discover the Internet? What was your first experience?
Nouran: Well, I remember the first time I discovered the Internet. I was just a kid listening to my mom describing it with excitement. I asked my mom: “So if I type anything in that bar, the results will show up? Like, anything??!!” and she said: “Yes, everything!” Once I got my first personal computer, the first thing I ever typed into the Google search bar was “Rosomat”, an Arabic word that means “Drawings”, as drawing was my favorite hobby when I was a child. I pressed Enter and Google showed me black and white drawings, colorful ones, geometric, abstract, graphics, hand-drawn and digital! I was amazed! Look at all of these results! My journey started here. I can learn anything, I can watch anything, I can read anything using this bar.
What role did the Internet play in your life?
Nouran: The Internet played a very important role in my career and life. When I discovered the MOOCs (“Massive Open Online Courses”), I started attending so many classes in so many fields, such as filmography, graphic design, film direction, content creation, business, AI and a lot more. It felt like the world is in my hands with all these courses from very respectful universities from all around the world. It also helped me to gain enough knowledge to start my first startup when I was 13 which was the first online bookstore in Port Said (my town).
How unusual is what you are doing compared to what your friends and classmates are doing?
Nouran: What I do is very unusual to where I grew up, as there aren’t many entrepreneurs in my town, especially females. There isn’t much awareness about it.
How important is an open Internet to you and your business?
Nouran: The open Internet is super important to my startup, as our platform and educational experience are for everyone who’s interested in entrepreneurship and business. It’s very important for my self-development too as it’s my primary source of taking classes and keep up with the latest industry news.
How does the Internet help you in developing and sharing ideas?
Nouran: The internet helps me in generating and developing new ideas, especially in my graphic design career. It’s a huge source for idea generation and inspiration. It’s hard to mention all the essential websites and blogs I visit daily. Behance and Dribble are two of the most important destination for me whenever I want to get inspired or generate new ideas. But the most critical ones are Facebook, LinkedIn and Google drive.
What your life would be like if you could not access Facebook for instance like in China or Linkedin like in Russia?
Nouran: I’m living in a small town where finding professionals and competencies to work in your company is hard. Having access to Facebook and LinkedIn saved me from moving to Cairo to run my startup efficiently. I communicated with amazing people and headhunted a lot of them to work in Robust Teens. You could only imagine how many hundreds of miles and time the Internet saved me.
What do you feel about Internet access restrictions in other countries? Do you believe that everyone has to have the right to unrestricted and secure access to the Internet?
Nouran: There are some restricted websites in Egypt, some of them are political ones like Sasapost.com. I believe that the open internet is a right for all of us, and we all should have equal access to the internet. No one has the right to restrict it. I’m a huge fan of the decentralized internet idea that was featured in the famous American TV show, “Silicon Valley.” People need to be up to date with the current world. It’s kinda scary to imagine what would happen if a huge source of information would disappear.
Do you think the level of life in countries with better access to the Internet is higher? Why?
Nouran: I believe that the level of life in countries with better access to the Internet is higher, as they have more opportunities and more opinions that will help increase their awareness of the world.
Do you think that open access to the Internet will help talented people to connect and collaborate?
Nouran: A widely open Internet will surely connect us to more talent all around the world. Some countries, like China, have extremely restricted access to the Internet, they don’t even have access to the most popular and important social network, Facebook and they have 1.3 Billion citizens. Imagine unlocking all this potential and talent and connecting China with the rest of the world!
For example, I met an amazing person with outstanding experience and skills online and he’s becoming now my co-founder. Communicating with people online has widened my network which is a very important asset for an entrepreneur.
What do you think of the solution Zezame is developing? Are you familiar with decentralized Internet options?
Nouran: Zezame is a great solution for a lot of people around the world who currently don’t have equal access to the Internet. I personally use VPN services a lot to have access to some banned blogs here in Egypt, unfortunately. I hope that one day we will have a fully decentralized internet empowered by people without banned blogs, data selling or advertising. Best of luck to you and to everyone aiming to make the world a better place.
Zezame is a decentralized Internet service provider powered by the community.
Zezame’s goal is to #opentheinternet for everyone to equally and easily access information everywhere in the world and enable every person to browse the Web in a private, free and secure manner.
Zezame’s first product is to empower the community to share and rent out their IP addresses and unused bandwidth in order to gain access to content from certain geographic locations.
We want to empower talented entrepreneurs, travelers, and thinkers worldwide to have unrestricted equal access to the Internet wherever they go. In a world where power is information and the Internet is the biggest source of information, everybody deserves to have access to it. It is time to take control of our lives.
Join our community and unlock the world of Net neutrality and open access.