Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Wide Digital Divide in Afghanistan

Despite progress and development in ICT sector in the last 10 years, only 8% of population (2,400,000 people) has access to Internet in Afghanistan. Although Internet price has dropped from $5000/mb/month in 2002 to $67 in 2014, the number of Internet users has been increasing very slowly. This indicates that Afghanistan lags far behind other countries in the region in terms of digital divide. Digital divide is very wide among the population.
Source: MCIT

Income level, cultural differences, literacy, and gender are among main factors of digital divide in the country.

Income: with $1100 GNI per capita and 36% of the population living under poverty line, 35% unemployment rate, Afghanistan has a very weak and unstable economy.
Only a small number of people can afford to pay for Internet and other required tools, computer and smart phone. For example, 3G services are available to 75% of population, only 3,00,000 people out of 20 million mobile users have subscribed for 3G services.

Cultural/religion: for some strict religious people using Internet is something not supported by religion as they think it will attract people towards religiously forbidden practices. Even in some provinces, in remote areas, people are reluctant and refrain seeing TV, thinking is not allowed by religion because it broadcasts music or dancing and women without Hijab. All these refer to how different people interpret the religion differently.

Literacy: Only 28% of the population can read and write. This means 78% of the population cannot read and write and it is a very wide gap in terms of digital divide.

Gender:  Traditionally women has rarely control and decision making authority over family economy. A vast majority of women are housewife and are not employed so they have no purchasing power to buy smart phone and computers. In addition literacy rate among women is 12%. With this situation the divide is very obvious among men and women. The situation is changing rapidly among school age girls as they compose 46% of pupils across the country.

While aforementioned dividing factors continue to exist, narrowing digital divide would not be an easy reachable target. Government along with private sector will be able to narrow it down through socio-economic development initiatives and efforts.  


  1. Do these numbers include both mobile and desktop ICT? I wonder if you might see a shift toward mobile (cheaper) and therefore more people going online through their cellphones?

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  3. Yes, it does include both. You are right, mobile internet users are growing fast after mobile companies started to provide 3G services. Currently, Only 380,000 Out of 21.7 million mobile subscribers use mobile internet (3G).

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