Day 1

Kabul, Afghanistan | 23 January, 2012 – The public forum began today with the Deputy Minister of the MoCIT, Baryalay Hasam, discussing the way forward for Afghanistan’s IT development. As compared to its status 10 years ago, the telecom sector seen today is the best it’s ever been. The Deputy Minister reported 85% of the country is now covered by the telecom sector; making it the leading sector in Afghanistan. “In order to continue this growth, Afghans must utilize local technologies in order to reduce gaps between the government and civilians.” With this statement, the Deputy Minister announced the opening of a 5 million dollar World Bank innovation grant. This grant will be available for individuals with bright ideas, students, entrepreneurs and Afghan businesses; the innovation grant manual is now available online. Mr. Hasam ended his presentation with a message to the young Afghans participating in the Lab, encouraging them to “be open and realistic to see how technology can be used to help the people; from Kabul right to the provinces.” The forum continued with a presentation by USAID keynote speaker David Thompson, Head of Democracy and Governance, who confirmed the positive growth in Afghanistan’s telecom sector. Since 2006 media has expanded to 50 new TV and 100 new radio stations, there are at least 13 million cell phone users and 1 million internet subscribers. Following Mr. Thompson, the Internews ICT representative Javid Hamdard presented his newly published document The State of ICT in Afghanistan: The Initial Findings.

The remainder of the afternoon featured several different speakers who presented their use of ICT for social change. Local and international NGO’s from eastern Afghanistan, Africa and the United States, discussed their use of open source software in collecting health, agriculture and mapping data. Beginning the presentations was Jacobo Quintanilla, the director of Humanitarian Operations for Internews. Jacobo discussed the international projects previously conducted by Internews that utilized technology for crisis response. Following Jacobo was a local NGO operating in Nangarhar province called International Synergy Group. Two representatives, Jennifer Gold and Juan Andres Rodriguez presented their recent projects combining SMS technology with their social network to assist Midwives and the Director of Agriculture, Irrigation and Livestock. Their Afghan partner, Hameed Tasal was the star of the forum when he presented a documentary film of his organization Jalalagood, mapping the entire province of Nangarhar, using Open Street Maps. Concluding the forum was Paywast representative Jes Petersen who discussed the steps to starting a social media enterprise and the necessity behind educating Afghanistan on mobile technology. To see more about the presentations check out the blog and resources page.

The Innovation Lab continues with the first day of the interactive workshop on January 24th. Selected participants will be assigned into six working groups based on their experience: health, media, crisis response, agriculture, education and governance. Each group will be presented with a typical challenge common to their field and they will be given two days to work together to develop an ICT strategy that would solve their problem. Success will be measured by the efficiency, relevancy and sustainability of their innovations in assisting local communities.

D A Y  2 –>

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