Information and Communication Technologies Policy, Afghanistan
In developing an ICT policy for the country, Afghan Government officials met in October of 2002 at the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) sponsored Information and Communication Technology Policy Development and Implementation Seminar for Afghanistan in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.
Taking into account various Afghan Government policy documents such as the draft National Development Framework, the National Telecommunications Policy, and the Telecommunications Development Strategy, the group identified challenges, issues, and processes for developing and implementing a national ICT policy for Afghanistan.
The building of physical ICT infrastructure had largely been addressed by the telecommunications policy and development strategy documents. However, information and capacity building issues also needed to be addressed in order to form the basis for a comprehensive ICT policy. As such, the policy focuses on these issues.
The seven priority areas of the policy are: Government Services, Infrastructure and Convergence, Development, Investment, e-Government, Education and Training, and e-Commerce.
Policy Date: January 1, 2003
The overall objective of the policy is to enable Afghanistan to further benefit from ICT by becoming part of the global information society while preserving Afghanistan’s cultural heritage, promoting national goals, achieving a tolerant and vibrant Afghanistan, improving government and social services, advancing the rebuilding process, increasing employment, creating a dynamic private sector, reducing poverty and supporting underprivileged groups.
The other specific objectives of the policy include extensively adopting ICT in order to improve all aspects of Afghan life, such as education, health, employment and access to information; cultivating the local ICT industry in order to foster investment and employment generation in this sector; and, utilising ICT to increase government efficiency and effective delivery of improved social services.
Below are specific strategies outlined by this policy document to achieve the ICT objectives for the education and government sectors:
- Government Services: The effective provision of government services will be delivered through the use of ICT to the populace, with special consideration given to underprivileged groups such as women, in order to establish a strong and democratic society. ICT will be implemented in the following areas:
- Health Services: ICT will be put into practice to facilitate the provision of conventional health services delivery through local health centres and hospitals, as well as health services provided “virtually” using e-medicine techniques. Efficiency and universal access will be characteristics of this new health services delivery system.
- Agriculture: An agriculture information system (AIS) will be developed to provide access to and information regarding commodity markets, including market prices of locally grown crops, weather data and other information pertinent to improving the livelihoods of farmers in rural areas.
- Administrative and social services: In order to stem the rural/urban divide, government administrative and social services will be made equally accessible, via the internet, to all Afghans regardless of where they live.
- Education: ICT will be utilised to enable more people to gain an education, which will in turn advance the development process by facilitating the creation of a skilled workforce that is well prepared to exploit the opportunities of the global economy, stimulate economic growth, alleviate poverty, and generally improve socio-economic conditions. Providing the appropriate ICT infrastructure, both physical and technical, is essential to promoting education and its subsequent benefits. ICT can facilitate the delivery of in-service training to improve the skills of the local workforce and can provide a cost-effective distance learning alternative to reach the large segments of Afghans, especially women, who are educationally disadvantaged and live in rural areas.
In order to achieve these objectives the government of Afghanistan will develop ICT curricula and training for teachers, as well as promote participation in ICT related courses at both the secondary and tertiary levels; establish ICT research and development programmes in collaboration with renowned foreign universities and build local, high quality academic programmes; provide access to ICT for students located in rural areas through initiatives such as Mobile Inter Units, computer networking academies, and tele-centres; support opportunities for distance education, including the establishment of centres that provide access to international online courses; establish partnerships with the private sector to develop and provide ICT training for business personnel; coordinate public agencies to train civil servants in ICT skills and applications; and enhance public access to information regarding ICT and opportunities in the sector through educational radio programmes, distribution of written materials where appropriate, and the establishment of public internet kiosks.