COLOGNE — Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan paid tribute to social media on Thursday, saying that it was one of the keys to the success of last spring’s mass protests in Armenia that brought him to power.
“Information technology enables us to have means of communication that cannot be controlled [by governments,]” Pashinyan said at the start of an official visit to Germany. “This mechanism allows people to express their views, have accountable governments and make democracy more practical and accessible.”
“This is what happened in Armenia,” he said in a speech delivered at Technical University of Cologne. “Through social media the Armenian people closed the ranks to say no to the former ruling elite which did not enjoy the people’s trust. They rejected a decades-long era of deceit and fraud.”
“With the velvet revolution Armenians put an end to the era of bad governance for the sake of transparency,” he added.
A former journalist and opposition parliamentarian, Pashinyan heavily relied on live Facebook transmissions during the peaceful protest movement which was launched by him and toppled the country’s former leadership. Hundreds of thousands of Armenians watched his daily video broadcasts on a daily basis.
The protests were also live streamed by online media outlets which thereby made the former government’s control over Armenian TV stations’ news coverage largely meaningless. People across the country, including in remote villages, were able to watch the webcasts thanks to rapid growth of Internet connectivity which began a decade ago.
Armenia’s broader information technology (IT) sector has expanded by over 20 percent annually in the past decade, making it the most dynamic sector of the Armenian economy. The combined turnover of some 650 IT firms operating in the country reached an estimated $765 million in 2017.
In his speech, Pashinyan described the Armenian IT industry as “one of the pillars of economic development.” He said its continued expansion is one of his government’s top economic priorities.
The sector currently employs some 15,000 mostly young people. Many of them participated in the Pashinyan-led protests in April and May 2018.