The use of mobile phone technology in Afghanistan has been steadily growing among its population since the U.S. led invasion in 2001. Mobile phone signal coverage, which in the past has been said to have been better than in the north of England, is set to hit the ninety per cent mark across the nation later this year. The hope is that in reaching this capacity both communications and security will be improved in remote areas that have previously been lacking in mobile technology has previously been lacking.
The news is not all positive however as increased mobile phone signals mean a greater ability for insurgents to use the technology in targeted attacks, such as remotely detonated Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs), and general communication.
Figures from the United States Central Intelligence Service (CIA) indicate that in 2009 mobile phone ownership stood at 12 million, whilst there were 129,300 fixed telephone lines. Recent figures suggest that mobile phone ownership has since grown to 15 million. The mobile phone user figures are even more impressive when considering that the population of Afghanistan is estimated to be slightly under 30 million and forty-two percent of that figure is under the age of fourteen.
A leading provider of mobile phone services in Afghanistan is Roshan, a telecommunications company partly owned by UK based Cable & Wireless. Roshan launched in 2003 and by June of this year had 5 million customers. The company is said to have invested $500 million in telecommunications infrastructure over the last eight years, a significant injection of private capital which has undoubtedly led to the increased use of mobile technology. Roshan is currently taking part in an attempt to close the gender gap in mobile phone technology, it is thought that women are thirty-seven per cent less likely to own a mobile phone in South Asia giving Roshan and its competitors a great financial incentive to invest in invest in such projects.
The economic consequence of an increase in technological infrastructure brings are likely to be significant in Afghanistan, given the commitment by the United States and her allies to leave the nation’s security to Afghan forces by 2015. An increase in communications has traditionally been linked to an increase in trade, which in itself could aid against the fight with the Taliban and other insurgent forces.