What Happens When Pokémon Go Sneaks Into Egypt

Pokemon Go isn't even available in Egypt. That hasn't stopped young hunters from tracking down the creatures.

Beware of the Sandshrew
Beware of the Sandshrew
Dalia Rabie

Marwan Imam, 28, recently drove two hours on a coastal highway chasing Pokémon in the Egyptian city of Alexandria.

“I drove all the way from the north coast to get some action," he says, "mostly to get to a populated area where there’s more Pokémon.”

Pokémon Go, the new augmented-reality game developed by Niantic and Nintendo, sends players to find and catch more than 100 species of Pokémon in the real world.

The game uses the player's surrounding area as a backdrop to collect different types of Pokémon. Smartphones alert players to the presence of one as they move through the streets. Once they’ve encountered a Pokémon, they take aim on their touch screen and throw a virtual Pokéball to catch it.

For nostalgic fans, this is the realization of their childhood Pokémon dreams.

Pokémon was created in 1995 as a universe of fictional creatures that humans catch and train for battle. It started as a Nintendo Game Boy video game and then branched out to trading card games, animated TV shows, movies, comic books and toys.

"I've been obsessed with Pokémon since it came out. I’ve had the cards from the very start," Imam says, adding that he also owned the games and watched the films. "So when I discovered an augmented reality game that lets you catch Pokémon in the real world, I was like, ‘Say no more, I'm in.’"

Pokémon was an important part of Kareem Gamroor’s childhood. "I cannot tell you how happy I am to see it back,” he says.

So far, the game is only available in Australia, New Zealand and the United States. But fans in Egypt found a way to circumvent geographic restrictions by changing the language and region option to the US in the App Store for iPhone users or by downloading the game on their Android phones.

Players wander around the streets of Cairo and other major Egyptian cities looking for exotic Pokémon specimens and PokéStops, where players can collect Poké Balls and training tools. When users reach a certain level in the game, they can go to a real world place where they can make their Pokémon fight against other players'.

This blending between the virtual and the real can lead to some awkward encounters.

"I had to walk into the lobby of a random building to get a new Charmander," Gamroor says, referring to a specific kind of Pokémon, "and you really have to make it seem like it's casual so people don't notice that your camera is on."

Haidy Zakariya, 24, says she and her friends plan outings just to hunt down the virtual creatures.

"We found places that have a lot of PokéStops like City Stars Mall and we go and walk around together to catch them," she explains.

Zakariya says she asked her mother to walk away from the kitchen stove one day, "because I found a Geodude on the frying pan."

However, safety risks can arise during the video game as the hunt can lead players to uninviting or risky places.

Australian police recently issued a warning against approaching a PokéStop located at a police station. "Please be advised that you don't actually have to step inside in order to gain the Poké Balls," the northern territory police, fire and emergency services department wrote on Facebook.

Players say they realize wandering around with their cameras switched on may not always be safe. They sometimes turn them off and rely on the GPS instead.

Zakariya says that people try to travel in groups when they’re out hunting Pokémon to minimize any danger.

Despite these precautions, Gamroor expects the augmented-reality game to cause security issues for Egyptian players. But that’s not going to stop him from playing Pokémon Go. "Downtown seems to have the heaviest concentrations of cool Pokémon," he says. "I'll probably go ahead and act oblivious."

"A friend of mine found a PokéStop in front of the Ministry of Interior," Zakariya notes. She’s "probably going to stay away from that one."

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How China Flipped From Tech Copycat To Tech Leader

Long perceived as a country chasing Western tech, China's business and technological innovations are now influencing the rest of the world. Still lagging on some fronts, the future is now up for grabs.

At the World Semiconductor Conference in Nanjing, China, on June 9

Emmanuel Grasland

BEIJING — China's tech tycoons have fallen out of favor: Jack Ma (Alibaba), Colin Huang (Pinduoduo), Richard Liu (Tencent) and Zhang Yiming (ByteDance) have all been pressured by Beijing to leave their jobs or step back from a public role. Their time may be coming to an end, but the legacy remains exceptional. Under their reign, China has become a veritable window to the global future of technology.

TikTok is the perfect example. Launched in 2016, the video messaging app has been downloaded over two billion times worldwide. It has passed the 100-million active user mark in the United States. Thanks to TikTok's success, ByteDance, its parent company, has reached an exceptional level of influence on the internet.

For a long time, the West viewed China's digital ecosystem as a cheap imitation of Silicon Valley. The European and American media described the giants of the Asian superpower as the "Chinese Google" or "Chinese Amazon." But the tables have turned.

No Western equivalent to WeChat

The Asian superpower has forged cutting-edge business models that do not exist elsewhere. It is impossible to find a Western equivalent to the WeChat super-app (1.2 billion users), which is used for shopping as much as for making a medical appointment or obtaining credit.

The flow of innovation is now changing direction.

The roles have actually reversed: In a recent article, Les Echos describes the California-based social network IRL, as a "WeChat of the Western world."

Grégory Boutté, digital and customer relations director at the multinational luxury group Kering, explains, "The Chinese digital ecosystem is incredibly different, and its speed of evolution is impressive. Above all, the flow of innovation is now changing direction."

This is illustrated by the recent creation of "live shopping" events in France, which are hosted by celebrities and taken from a concept already popular in China.

10,000 new startups per day

There is an explosion of this phenomenon in the digital sphere. Rachel Daydou, Partner & China General Manager of the consulting firm Fabernovel in Shanghai, says, "With Libra, Facebook is trying to create a financial entity based on social media, just as WeChat did with WeChat Pay. Facebook Shop looks suspiciously like WeChat's mini-programs. Amazon Live is inspired by Taobao Live and YouTube Shopping by Douyin, the Chinese equivalent of TikTok."

In China, it is possible to go to fully robotized restaurants or to give a panhandler some change via mobile payment. Your wallet is destined to be obsolete because your phone can read restaurant menus and pay for your meal via a QR Code.

The country uses shared mobile chargers the way Europeans use bicycles, and is already testing electric car battery swap stations to avoid 30 minutes of recharging time.

Michael David, chief omnichannel director at LVMH, says, "The Chinese ecosystem is permanently bubbling with innovation. About 10,000 start-ups are created every day in the country."

China is also the most advanced country in the electric car market. With 370 models at the end of 2020, it had an offering that was almost twice as large as Europe's, according to the International Energy Agency.

Photo of a phone's screen displaying the logo of \u200bChina's super-app WeChat

China's super-app WeChat

Omar Marques/SOPA Images/ZUMA

The whole market runs on tech

Luca de Meo, CEO of French automaker Renault, said in June that China is "ahead of Europe in many areas, whether it's electric cars, connectivity or autonomous driving. You have to be there to know what's going on."

As a market, China is also a source of technological inspiration for Western companies, a world leader in e-commerce, solar, mobile payments, digital currency and facial recognition. It has the largest 5G network, with more than one million antennas up and running, compared to 400,000 in Europe.

Self-driving cars offer an interesting point of divergence between China and the West.

Just take the number of connected devices (1.1 billion), the time spent on mobile (six hours per day) and, above all, the magnitude of data collected to deploy and improve artificial intelligence algorithms faster than in Europe or the United States.

The groundbreaking field of self-driving cars offers an interesting point of divergence between China and the West. Artificial intelligence guru Kai-Fu Lee explains that China believes that we should teach the highway to speak to the car, imagining new services and rethinking cities to avoid cars crossing pedestrians, while the West does not intend to go that far.

Still lagging in some key sectors

There are areas where China is still struggling, such as semiconductors. Despite a production increase of nearly 50% per year, the country produces less than 40% of the chips it consumes, according to official data. This dependence threatens its ambitions in artificial intelligence, telecoms and autonomous vehicles. Chinese manufacturers work with an engraving fineness of 28 nm or more, far from those of Intel, Samsung or TSMC. They are unable to produce processors for high-performance PCs.

China's aerospace industry is also lagging behind the West. There are also no Chinese players among the top 20 life science companies on the stock market and there are doubts surrounding the efficacy of Sinovac and Sinopharm's COVID-19 vaccines. As of 2019, the country files more patents per year than the U.S., but far fewer are converted into marketable products.

Beijing knows its weaknesses and is working to eliminate them. Adopted in March, the nation's 14th five-year plan calls for a 7% annual increase in R&D spending between now and 2025, compared with 12% under the previous plan. Big data aside, that is basic math anyone can understand.

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