The Condition of The Internet in Afghanistan
Afghanistan, situated at the crossroads of Asia, has been prohibited from developing the accoutrements of the modern world. Decades of civil war between Soviet and US backed forces after the Second World War, followed by years under the governance of the Islamic hard-line Taliban, had kept Afghanistan in a state of almost medieval conditions and population. The development of Internet services has only come about in the last ten years or so.
Under the Taliban, there was no national Internet services. In fact, the Internet, accessed from routers outside its borders, was banned by the Islamic rulers. They regarded it as a medium through which Immoral, imperialist and obscene material would be published. A few 'underground' Internet users during the Taliban's rule used telephone lines from neighbouring Pakistan to try to avoid detection. Following the US-led war in Afghanistan and the move to more democratic governance, the right to freedom of expression was enshrined in law, and the Department of Communications in the government was charged with creating Internet and telecommunications services.
The Ministry of Communications has allowed several independent companies to establish Internet services in Afghanistan since 2003. Some of the main providers are: Neda, AfSat, Insta, Global Services Limited and LiwalNet. Domain names are administered by the Afghanistan Network Information Center.
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The latest available figures for Internet usage in Afghanistan are from 2011, and cite 1.25 million users in the country. However, as Afghanistan has a population of just under 30 million, this represents only just over 4 percent of the population. There is virtually no Internet availability in rural areas, with the major cities of Kabul, Jalalabad and Khost giving the most access. In early 2011, a mobile Internet service was offered by a company called Paywast, which claims to have already attracted 1 million users, although the figure has yet to be independently verified.
Afghanistan's geographic location has, in centuries past, made it an important player in the flow of trade between the Middle East and Asia. In the age of digital communications and the relative peace and stability the country has attained in recent years, it may come to hold such a position again. In 2009, the Afghani government, with the aid of American military experts, the country became digitally linked, via fibre optic cable, to its neighbouring countries in Central Asia. Utilizing more than 8,000 fibre optic cables, the nation was linked to, and supplying Internet services to Tajikistan, Uzbekistan and Pakistan. Indeed, 90 percent of Tajikistan's Internet service comes via Afghanistan. As the capability to provide service improves – assuming the political situation remains calm – Afghanistan is likely to provide an important routing point connecting the powerful economies of China and India with Russia and the Middle East.
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