Ministry of Communications and Information Technology (MCIT) officials have described 2013 as a year of achievements, but insecurity, impassible areas and the absence of electricity in some parts remain hurdles to expanding telecom services.
In 2012, the ministry officials say 80 percent of the country’s population had access to telecommunication services, a percentage that rose to more than 90 percent in 2013. At the same time, the number of mobile users reached over 20 million last year, compared with 17 million in 2012.
After inking of contracts with telecom companies, 240 news antennas were also installed and activated in 173 districts -- a move that brought under coverage 480,000 people, who had no access to telecom services in 2012.
In an exclusive interview with Pajhwok Afghan News, MCIT spokesman Nasrat Rahimi said the ministry was trying to further develop information technology in the country. In the latest development, he said three new information technology departments were established under the structure of MCIT in 2013.
One of the departments “Electronic Governance” helped connected five local universities with international higher educational institutes through the Internet as well as 15 hospitals, four institutes and more than 50 high schools in Kabul and provinces, the spokesman said.
He said the second department called “National Information Department” which focused on electronic statistics and the third is cyber security department aimed at enhancing the security of the country’s cyber and communications infrastructure.
On progress in the internet field, Rahimi said nearly eight percent people had access to the facility in 2012 against 40 percent right now, saying it would be increased to 80 percent next year through fiber optic networks and 3G services.
The third generation (3G) technology system has been launched in the country. It works faster than Analog and digital system in terms of communication through telephones and internet.
The Fiber Optic Network is an underground system extended though cable throughout the country; it has the capacity to deliver communication services with low rates and better quality.
Work on the fiber optic project was initiated back in 2007 from Kabul, an extension 3,300 lines passing through Parwan, Balkh, Faryab and Kunduz provinces.
Rahimi said a license had been issued to Wimax forum, a wireless communication services provider network in developed countries.
Moreover, an international conference and exhibition on information technology was arranged in 2013 for the first time in Afghanistan. As many as 20 IT ministers from foreign countries took part in the event.
The spokesman claimed more than 90,000 jobs were created in 2013 and 110,000 jobs in 2012 as one of the ministry’s greatest achievements.
He said the ministry has been able to technically support the issuance of electronic identity cards. He said the government wanted to devise a proper strategy on the law and order situation in the country and a proper registration of citizens was necessary to help determine the exact number of people living in the country.
The spokesman said lawlessness was the basic problem hindering efforts at extending communication services to far-flung areas.
He said the ministry as an organ of the government contributed millions of dollars in income to the national treasury annually.
The ministry’s revenue in 2013 was estimated at more than $200 million, showing a $50 million increase, compared with 2012 figures, the spokesman said.
He said the ministry was committed to extending communication and technology services to the whole of the country by the end of 2014 if electricity cables were extended and law and order ensured.