In 2002, Afghanistan had very sparse information and communication technology (ICT) infrastructure. Now, the country is on a journey to complete the infrastructure that will bring all of its citizens within reach of life-changing technologies.
At the ITU Plenipotentiary Conference 2018, His Excellency (H.E.) Shahzad Gul Aryobee, Minister of Communications and Information Technology (MCIT) from Afghanistan sat down to discuss the challenges and opportunities of connecting Afghan citizens to the power of ICTs.
“I will talk about Afghanistan, because in 2002… we started from scratch. There was no cell phone, there was no infrastructure, there was no technology, there was nothing. We started from scratch, but right now about 23 million people [are] using cell phones in Afghanistan,” said Gul Aryobee.
Now, the country is focused on Internet connectivity. “We have a complete infrastructure laid down, like fiber optics in 25 provinces. In the next two years, we will complete the whole country…. This is a huge improvement and [there are] like 8.7 million people using the Internet in Afghanistan,” said Gul Aryobee.
“There are so many challenges, but still…we have a lot of improvement in the ICT sector,” he stated.
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“As I mentioned, we are connected with five of our neighbor countries and recently we conducted the survey of the fiber optics to… be connected with China,” said Gul Aryobee.
But many challenges remain to connect the whole country, especially due to the geography of the country and the affordability of services.
“The price of the Internet is still expensive in Afghanistan. We’re working to reduce the price of [access to] the Internet,” says Gul Aryobee. “Afghanistan is a landlocked country and we’re not connected with the submarine [cables] and we are paying transaction fees to our neighbor countries: Pakistan, Iran, some to Turkmenistan and others.”
However, the Minister was optimistic about his country’s ability to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
“We will be working closely with ITU to achieve the SDG goals of the United Nations,” he said.
Finally, he described the key role of ITU when it comes to ICT development. He stated that, “the ITU should be more focused on developing countries like Afghanistan where we’re expecting more [growth]. Whether that’s standardization, or with capacity building, we need to work with them on how we can use the updated technology. This is a request for assistance from the ITU.”
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