Why is UpKurve interested in Afghanistan's internet?
One of the amazing innovations of the 20th century, that disrupted life as we knew it, with a revolutionary impact perhaps bigger than that of the rise of agrarian civilisations or the industrial revolutions, was the internet. So one of the goals of UpKurve is to promote unbiqutous internet in developing countries. Given UpKurve's CEO James Nicholls will be going to Kabul soon we thought it would be good to look at internet impact in Afghanistan and see what can be done to increase internet penetration there.
Google, FB and others are piloting projects to deliver internet from the stratosphere. For example, Loon, the Google project is using big balloons floating at a height of 20 kilometers above Earth's surface for transmission of internet services. The ballooned internet technology has already been tested in New Zealand, California (US), Brazil and since January 2016, India.
If this technology could be utilised in Afghanistan, it would bypass security issues such as insurgency attacks during internet infrastructure rollouts. The technology, used for 4G services, has the potential to replace mobile towers as it can directly transmit signals on 4G mobile phones. According to internet live stats there were 788 users in 2000 which shot-up to just under 20,000 internet users in 2003 (after the Taliban Government were ousted in 2002). In September 2016, there were 2,279,167 internet users growing in numbers every minute. That's a 114 fold increase in the number of users over 13 years since the new government got into power. This massive increase is in the face of insurgency attacks and a civil society struggling to assert its voice is impressive. If project Loon worked with mobile network providers and the government in Afghanistan, you would have a serious boost in in the already rocketing internet penetration.
Why do we want it up?
There should be little doubt in any sober mind of the transformative power of the internet on economies, politics, justice, productivity and the way we live today.
In a 2011 report titled 'The great transformer: How the Internet is changing the globe and its citizens', McKinsey Global Institute concluded the following: The Internet has already served notice that it will be a disruptive force resolutely shaping the economy and society of the 21st century. But it can be a positive disruptor, supplying engines of growth to regions of the world that have been disadvantaged in the past, creating whole new industries from electrons and software code, and offering hope and opportunity to millions with its ability to spread knowledge, empower consumers, and organize social interactions.
To investigate the potential impact of the Web on business performance in the developing world, a 2015 study, “Overcoming Obstacles: The Internet’s Contribution to Firm Development,” analyzed data from firms in 117 nations over a five-year period, 2006 to 2011. Authored by Caroline Paunov of the OECD and Valentina Rollo of Switzerland’s Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies, the report looks at whether constraints in developing economies limit potential positive impacts of the Internet on firm performance.
The authors conclude: “We show that the Internet had positive impacts on firm’s productivity across world regions and across different stages of development. Even firms facing financial constraints, frequent power outages, skills shortages, corruption, and cumbersome labor regulations gained.”