“In the start, we were just a few young people doing this. Alfanar helped us make this an organisation.”
In 2004, Ahmed Kheir and his friend, Khalid Abdul Hamid, both in their 20s, were working as researchers in Cairo. They soon realised they couldn’t find many of the documents or details they needed.
Ahmed and Khalid decided to build their own database, archiving an extensive selection of newspapers and other publications in the region, in order to create a resource on issues of public interest for future researchers and the public. They called the project Da'am, which means ‘support’ in Arabic.
After two years, development of Da'am slowed down. Neither Ahmed nor Khalid had organisational management experience, and they had been unable to get any funding.
This changed when Ahmed went to a workshop and introduced himself to Alfanar’s Egypt Director at the time, Nada Mobarak. After a vigorous due diligence process, Alfanar started supporting Da'am with grant funding, while also mentoring the founders with administration and fundraising advice. “We were in constant contact,” Ahmed says.
Alfanar and Da'am's partnership continued until 2010, during which time Ahmed says Da'am grew “from an idea into a viable organisation with stability.” Following Alfanar’s exit, Da'am has continued to grow. It is now a leading organisation in the field of open information in Egypt, employing 16 staff researchers with a budget that has since quadrupled. The organisation’s activities have also expanded to include the regular release of reports on the Egyptian government, encouraging greater governmental transparency. They also have begun to investigate corruption, and will focus in the coming years on strengthening the role of internet activists in Egypt.
Alfanar has supported the Information Technology Support Centre from its inception, believing in the ideas of a young organisation committed to free access to information on issues of public interest, sorted using a rights-based index. The organisation set up a web-based archive that facilitates access to information on issues of public interest, particularly focusing on human rights for the benefit of Egyptian civil society organisations. The centre collects, sorts, analyses, and makes available data on general issues through its website. Furthermore, it provides client-tailored research to cater to the information needs and requirements of a wider client base. This project is truly innovative in the Egyptian, and indeed the Arab, context and can empower millions.