Afghanistans Information and Communications Technology Sector: U.S. Agencies Obligated Over $2.6 Billion to the Sector, but the Full Scope of U.S. Efforts is Unknown
Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction Arlington United States
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In 2001, Afghanistan had only a rudimentary telecommunications system located in major cities and along its borders. Since then, considerable development has taken place as a result of private sector investment, as well as the Afghan government and international partners efforts. According to U.S. and Afghan officials, the information and communications technology ICT sector is generally seen as a success. The U.S. Agency for International Development USAID reports that, among other things, the sector contributed 1.81 billion in revenues to the Afghan government in 2013, employs about 130,000 Afghans, and provides mobile phone services to roughly 90 percent of the population. Private sector investment alone had reached 2 billion by 2013. Additionally, the Department of Defense DOD estimates that the ICT sector could generate an additional 1 billion in revenue per year to the Afghan government within the next decade from data transit tariffs and the provision of information services. U.S. agencies and other stakeholders have recognized the importance of the ICT sector to Afghanistans economic success. For example, the ICT sector has become a key enabler of the Afghan government and has expanded its ability to communicate with Afghan citizens. In addition, the sector includes communications networks that are critical to the Afghan National Defense and Security Forces ANDSF operations.