Internet Anthropologist Think Tank: Afghans flip for cellphones

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    Saturday, November 24, 2007

    Afghans flip for cellphones

    Afghans flip for cellphones

    Kelly Cryderman, CanWest News Service Published: Saturday, November 24, 2007

    KANDAHAR, Afghanistan - In a country where roads are often impassable, travel is fraught with danger and recent history recalls many Afghans taking the long road to Pakistan just to make a call, the mobile phone is king.

    Afghanistan's cellphone networks may be new and terribly unreliable, but they're spreading like wildfire across the country, aiding everyone from women entrepreneurs, to criminal gangs operating in the desert, to regular Afghans who previously couldn't call their relatives.

    "It is due to this public call office that I am supporting my family," said Kandahar City resident Qudratullah, 24, who operates a tiny kiosk called a PCO where the many Afghans who can't afford cellphones can pay to make calls.

    "I want to be a teacher or a businessman," said Qudratullah, who is able to pay for classes that would put him in Grade 10 in Canada and who, like many Afghans, has only one name.

    Across the courtyard from Qudratullah's wooden shack is foodstuff shopkeeper Mohammed Anwer Zarif, who said just a few years ago he had to travel to Kabul, Herat or Pakistan to place his product orders. He said there was no other reliable way to communicate.

    Now he can just call his suppliers when he needs a new shipment. "Then quickly they send the stuff," Zarif said.

    The telecommunications industry was close to non-existent before the Taliban were overthrown in 2001. But there's room for tremendous growth now: Few land lines exist in Afghanistan and just four million of its 32 million inhabitants are mobile subscribers.

    "It's right at the heart of our investment promotion," said Omar Zakhilwal, president and CEO of the Afghanistan Investment Support Agency, which licenses and promotes businesses across the country.

    There are many challenges, including that many Afghans live in areas without regular electricity to charge their phones. Fuel for the generators running the cellphone towers and hiring the security are expensive.

    Still, a company called Etisalat became the fourth service provider in August and there's room for even more competition, Zakhilwal said.

    The cellphone industry is growing, he said, because it realizes a quick profit relative to other businesses. Security, moreover, isn't as big a concern as in other sectors. Criminal elements or the Taliban, who regularly battle Canadian Forces in Kandahar province, know they need the cellphone towers that are springing up.

    "The insurgents in the south, in any part of the country, absolutely rely on the services of the mobile phone," Zakhilwal said. "It's a benefit for everyone, friends or foes."

    Even so, there was an attack on a cellphone card dealer this past week in volatile Kandahar City. A gang of armed robbers opened fire on a vehicle and made off with some $75,000 US worth of cellphone cards. The driver of the vehicle was unhurt.

    Large parts of the country, where the central government has little or no control, are still racked with periodic violence. Many foreign companies are leery about doing business in Afghanistan.

    But not so much for the mobile industry, Zakhilwal said. Five years ago there was no investment in the sector, but next year it's poised to hit US$1-billion, he said.

    This is also needed for Paki, on many levels.
    Crucial for Info WAR, Afghan and Pakti as was in Iraq.


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    Blogger Cannoneer No. 4 said...

    The loudspeaker has also been
    technologically updated in ways never
    The days of shouting at
    one another over cease fire lines or to
    encourage one side to surrender still
    exist, but these have been supplemented
    by the silent loudspeaker—the text
    message. Text and voice mail messages
    on mobile phones warned residents of
    Tyre in southern Lebanon to leave or risk
    being killed. This means the message
    is precision guided, just like high-tech

    12:36 PM  
    Blogger gerald said...

    Excellent points.
    In the Iraq war USA was emailing Saddam's Generals


    4:51 PM  

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