Over the past few months a number of Afghan Information Technology professionals are feeling comfortable expressing their concerns on growing internet issues that directly or indirectly affect their personal or business life. Wider internet access, quality of service, higher prices, realiability and surveillance have been the major issues for internet users in Afghanistan for a number of years. But users are now anxiously expecting and demanding for the level of service that they are paying for and they are using social media networks especially Facebook and Twitter to get the attention of the government officials and service providers.
Broadband internet provision
Basic infrastructure is hindering in the implementation of all the trending technologies and in the development of our economy. Public are starting to realize that technology in itself will not be able to bring change in the society. In the past 13 years, projects implementers focus was on technology only and even though the country had the latest and greatest hardware and software in the country such as the VSAT, WiMax, mobile money, fiber optic, and other sophisticated information systems, the level and quality of service hasn’t significantly improved all these years. Public is paying a lot more money for a very low quality of service.
On June 6, a user on facebook expressed himself with these words, “If I was Minister/Deputy Minister of MCIT I would resign for such poor and low quality internet services, the internet (DSL) is down across the country and they don't give $#!% about this”.
Another user commented and said; “I wonder how private companies and other organizations bear not having internet connection 10 days in a month. One needs to have a backup connection to cover his/her business”.
This comes few days after the 100 days plan submitted by the Minister of Communications and IT to the President and main media reported that the Minister has promised to quadruple the quality of internet service within 100 days.
The Deputy Minister, in his comment to a post on facebook says; “The statement is miss understood by media, the fiber optic capacity will be increased 4 times with a backup route from Pakistan”, and says “The Kabul-Torkham route will be backed by secondary route from Kwata-Kanadahar-Kabul”.
Surveillance and Internet censorship, in comparison to Iran and Pakistan, hasn’t been very severe in Afghanistan over the past 13 years but there has been a number of cases for sites being banned. Sites have been banned in the past including youtube being banned for 5 months in 2012/2013. Aside from that some of the Internet Service Providers (ISP) are blocking websites based on the keywords matching.
In a recent post on facebook a user claimed that; “MCIT is blocking websites and URLs based on keywords and page titles, which also blocks certain news and Wikipedia articles. They should use a better technology for blocking porn. #InternetFreedom”.
Some ISPs are also blocking Voice Over IP (VOIP) services in the country.
Censorship might be new and growing concern for users since more people are starting to use the internet. Mortaza Rahimi, a journalist, in his 2013 article believes “The main reason being that Afghan government has no infrastructure not capability to do it more effectively. Nor it is seen that the government is keen on doing so. The reason behind this could be that majority of the Afghans are still away from the cyber world.