Excellencies, Respected Delegates,
Ladies and Gentlemen;
On behalf of the Government of Afghanistan, it is great honor for me to be participating in this year's ITU Plenipotentiary conference in this beautiful city of Busan.
Afghanistan in 2002 had no ICTs. Our people had to travel to neighboring countries for making a phone call. In the last 12 years, there has been a tremendous progress in the field of ICT in Afghanistan.
With the adoption of a Telecom & ICT policy, based on best global practices, creation of suitable legal framework, transparent mechanism for issuing of licenses and the establishing of a strong regulator, Afghanistan has experienced strong growth in the economy and in the ICT sector.
The success of the ICT sector in Afghanistan has exceeded expectations. 6 national operators and 50 Internet service provider companies compete strongly in our telecom market, leading to new services, improved quality and coverage and significantly reduced prices.
The total foreign direct investment in the Afghan telecom sector now stands at 2.5B$. The sector contributes over 10% of the entire revenue stream of the government and provides jobs to more than 140,000 people.
Mobile phone services cover nearly 90% of the population and the number of mobile phone users is over 22 million, equivalent to 80% penetration. Through new satellite-based projects using our newly acquired satellite Afghansat-1 and universal access programs, we are extending services to the rural communities of Afghanistan.
Our government understands the importance of broadband Internet and it is our goal to make it available at affordable price to all of our citizens. We plan to realize this goal mainly through expansion of our national optical fiber network and the use of 3G/4G wireless technologies.
Our national fiber backbone is now connecting 22 out of 34 provinces; and it also connects Afghanistan to all of our neighboring countries Iran, Pakistan, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, and Turkmenistan. Our optical fiber cable network can bring connectivity between the Transit Europe Asia cables in the north and the submarine cables in the Indian ocean in the south.
The optical fiber has made Internet affordable. 3 years ago the price of Internet bandwidth via satellites was 4000 US$/mb/month and hence totally unaffordable for our citizens. With the optical fiber connectivity, the price has gradually dropped and is now 20$/mb/month and we expect this to drop further over the coming years.
Five wireless broadband licenses have been issued. 3G services currently covers over 50% of the population and we plan that it reaches to 90% in the next 2 years. The number of Internet users is low, about 2 million, as it was either not available or very expensive. But, due to the recent decline in bandwidth price and also the expansion of 3G services, the number of Internet users is growing very rapidly.
As a result of our government's respect for freedom of expression, guaranteed by our constitution, there has been an explosive growth in the media sector, especially electronic media. Today, Afghanistan has 35 TV channels in Kabul and 54 regional TV channels. We have 62 FM radio channels in Kabul and 160 regional FM radio channels.
We have started the transition from analogue TV to Digital TV broadcasting using DVB-T2 standard. Digital TV broadcasting has already started in Kabul and is expected to start in 6 other major cities in next 3 months. We plan to complete the nationwide transition process in next 3 years.
Our focus in the last 10 years was on infrastructure development where as our focus in the next 10 years will be on services, i.e. how best to use the ICT for economic development, job creation, good governance, education, healthcare, commerce etc.
We have developed a state of the art electronic ID system, which will form the basis of future electronic services. We have already started connecting universities, vocational schools and hospitals with optical fiber paving the way for introduction of electronic services. Our operators have already developed mobile money services, which are extremely useful especially since banking services are not widely available in Afghanistan.
Afghanistan is ever more actively participating to the activities of the ITU and we are very happy that in this Plenipotentiary Conference, as demonstrated by my statement above, we are committed to work towards achieving the vision, goals and targets of the ITU's Connect 2020.
Thank you for your attention.