WASHINGTON, April 26, 2011 ─ The World Bank today approved a $50 million IDA grant to help the Government of Afghanistan expand connectivity, mainstream the use of mobile applications and support the development of the local information technology industry.
The Afghanistan Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) Sector Development Project builds on the success of earlier projects and catalyzes the next phase of ICT development in the country. The project will support policy and regulatory reforms and strategic infrastructure investment to expand connectivity and enable more users to access high quality mobile and internet services. It will also help mainstream the use of mobile applications to improve public service delivery and program management in strategic sectors in the Government. The project will help develop the local IT industry by expanding the pool of skilled and qualified IT professionals, and supporting the incubation of ICT companies in Afghanistan.
“Afghanistan’s achievements in the sector over the past years are exciting,” said Nicholas Krafft, World Bank Country Director for Afghanistan. “The Government’s policy and regulatory framework has attracted private investment in excess of $1.6 billion into Afghan telecommunication services. This project will allow Afghanistan to create the infrastructure to better utilize ICT for service delivery, allow for greater investments in the sector and help create jobs and enhance economic growth.”
Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) sector has seen significant growth in Afghanistan. In 2002, there were fewer than 60,000 telephones in operation across the country. By early 2011, the number of mobile telephone subscriptions had risen to an estimated 14 million and about 80 percent of the population is today covered by the network. The policy and regulatory framework have enabled private sector participation and over $1.6 billion has been invested by the private sector, directly and indirectly creating over 60,000 jobs. As a result, intercity and international connectivity has improved significantly and the national fiber optic network now connects 20 Afghan provinces and most of Afghanistan’s neighboring countries.
Some of the expected results that the Afghanistan Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) Sector Development Project will support include:
- increasing telephone penetration from 55 percent to 80 percent of the population
- increasing internet penetration to 10 percent of the population
- adding 1000 km to the fiber optic national telecommunications backbone network
- training at least 1500 Afghans for the IT industry
- supporting at least 10 government agencies to make government information and services available on the mobile phone.
In 2003, World Bank-funded grant assistance helped with the initial creation of a functioning telecommunications regulatory unit within the Ministry of Communications and Information Technology (MCIT). The World Bank-funded Emergency Communications Development Project (ECDP), which was completed in September 2009 helped support initial reforms in the telecommunications sector, provide capacity building support to the MCIT, the Afghanistan Telecommunications Regulatory Authority, Afghan Telecom and Afghan Post. It also supported the establishment of a Government Communications Network.
The project will be implemented by the Ministry of Communications and IT over a period of three years.