Before Egypt turned off the Internet, the country had received increasingly high marks from leading analysis firms as a promising offshore outsourcing destination, despite the nation's political risk.
When it comes to outsourcing, there are some things that analysis firms can no doubt do well. They can assess the labor pool, the educational system, and cost of business -- anything that can be measured and quantified. But as Egypt's political turmoil demonstrates, it's very difficult to predict the sweep of history.
Management consulting firm A.T. Kearney released an annual index this week that measures the attractiveness of offshoring locations, and it put Egypt fourth on the list after India, China, and Malaysia.
In December, Gartner included Egypt on its list of top 30 countries for offshore services.
These rankings, according to the analysts who did them, weigh many things (in Gartner's case, 10 separate criteria), including game-ending political risks, and then base rankings on an overall assessment.
Egypt's rise as an offshore and regional tech venue is relatively new and rapid. It has succeeded in getting a number of U.S. firms, including Microsoft, Hewlett-Packard, and Oracle, to establish offices in a government-backed tech office park that opened in 2003.
But in the wake of the crisis, tech work is being shifted out of country.
With no Internet, Egypt has descended into what might be a modern version of the Middle Ages. What was missed? One person who has studied historical trends for insights about future directions is Ian Morris, a professor of classics and history at Stanford University and author of the recently published, "Why the West Rules--for Now: The Patterns of History, and What They Reveal About the Future," who said that "we shouldn't be particularly surprised that unrest has broke out in North Africa."
"The conditions for violence have been there for a long time, and even before Mubarak took power," Morris said. Egypt's prior leaders, Gamal Abdel Nasser and Anwar El Sadat, "constantly had to be maneuvering to keep the lid on a powder keg."
"But I can also see why analysts might have ranked the danger in Egypt lower than that in, say, large parts of sub-Saharan Africa or central Asia -- the Egyptian dictators have been very good at crushing and buying off challengers, and at least since 1973 the army has had a lot of respect in Egypt," said Morris.