A New Step Towards Information Technology Venture
Over the past ten years, Afghanistan has gradually become globalized and has adopted steps necessary to become a country known for welcoming information technology innovations. Afghanistan’s ICT sector has progressed from the few small institution based learning companies to ones with globalized applications and reach.
Despite this impressive development, Afghans are still emerging from the years of bans on watching TV, using the internet and utilizing distance learning. These activities had all been considered sins. Fortunately, everything dramatically changed when the Taliban fell. One of the most important changes was the installation of new technology and internet access. These improvements helped the use of mobile phones and access to different kinds of computer software and applications. The Ministry of Communication facilitated these changes using international donations.
Recently, Peace Dividend Trust was among the participants in Open Source Technology’s regional four-day conference. We were introduced to the attendees of the conference in the exhibition that followed. PDT had a booth where we were able to make contact with many of the attendees. This conference was held at the Information Communication Technology Institute (ICTI) and was hosted by its president, Mr. Omar. The regional Open Source Conference was geared towards localizing and securing software called FOSS- Free Open Source Software. The group discussion had panelists from Afghanistan, Pakistan, India, Nepal, Iran and Tajikistan.
Open Source Technology actually provides the platform for introducing new software in the country. The alliance wants to establish Open Source centers in countries where people do not usually have access to secure and localized software. In the Conference’s opening speech, Dr. Ashraf Ghani Ahmadzai pointed to the importance of information in society and to enhancing creativity. According to Dr. Ashraf Ghani, internet and secure software are necessities in today’s world. He added that having a center specifically for localizing and making software secure is a significant achievement. Dr. Ghani was very positive about ICT in Afghanistan. He feels that the embedding of information in our lives is changing our social and economic relations and that while we have a technical platform for transformation, our inherited mental models are limiting.
The Minister of Communication, Ameerzay Sangeen, also had insightful comments. According to Mr. Sangeen, in Afghanistan today, one million people use the internet. After two years of the activation of fiber optics, half of the population of Afghanistan will access to internet. Eighty per cent of the Afghan population uses mobile cell phones but there is still much work to do to make the costs cheaper. Mr. Ameerzay used the example of the cost of computing which ten years ago was $5,000USD- $10,000USD for a simple computer. Even with that cost, computers were banned by Taliban and not available for Afghans’ use. Now a simple computer is available for $200USD to $500USD. Hardware has become less important and the real value lies with the secure and localized software.
Open Source Technology and its importance for Afghanistan and the regional countries became even more evident throughout the conference. Ameerzay Sangeen and other authorities came to visit the PDT exhibition. While standing at PDT’s booth, Mr. Sangeen expressed his appreciation for PDT’s efforts to develop the private sector and encouraged us to do even more. We at PDT look forward to helping the Afghan people take advantage of the tremendous changes in technologies and to continue to open the country to the region and the world.