Saturday, June 15, 2024

Bridging the Digital Divide: Afghanistan’s Urgent Quest for Technological Empowerment in the Age of Innovation

Immigration News

Khaama Press
Khaama Press
Khaama Press is the leading news agency of Afghanistan with over 3 million hits a month.
Officials check the files of applicants at the passport office, in Herat on January 29, 2024. (Photo by Mohsen Karimi / AFP)

In an era where the globe is rapidly embracing the fruits of the Fourth Industrial Revolution—marked by breakthroughs in artificial intelligence (AI), robotics, the Internet of Things (IoT), genetic engineering, quantum computing, and other technologies—Afghanistan finds itself grappling with foundational challenges that starkly hinder its path to digital transformation and innovation. This gap not only places Afghanistan at a considerable disadvantage on the global stage but also affects its internal socio-economic development and governance efficacy.

Afghanistan’s struggle with technological changes is deeply rooted in the absence of basic infrastructural elements, such as addressing systems, digital maps, and postal services. Unlike many countries where homes, lanes, and avenues are systematically named and marked, Afghanistan lacks such an addressing system. This fundamental gap complicates everything from logistics and service delivery to emergency response and urban planning.

Moreover, the country operates without functional postal services for the general public, with existing services limited to intra-governmental communication. This not only isolates the population from the global communication network but also impedes the development of e-commerce and other digital business models that rely on postal and delivery services.

The lack of a comprehensive digital database for the Afghan population exacerbates these challenges. With electronic IDs distributed to only a small percentage of citizens and no mandatory registration for vital events like births, marriages, divorces, and deaths, Afghanistan lags in creating a digital identity framework essential for modern governance and service provision.

The mode of government service delivery in Afghanistan remains entrenched in traditional methodologies, heavily reliant on paperwork and manual processes. While some government agencies have begun to use technology for data storage and management, the absence of interconnectivity between different government divisions undermines the potential for efficient governance. This disjointed approach to digitalization results in duplicated efforts, inefficiencies, and a lack of transparency, further distancing Afghanistan from the global move towards e-governance and digital service delivery.

The reliance on paper-based and non-digital methods for citizen-government interactions not only slows down the service delivery process but also limits access to services for those living in remote or conflict-affected areas. In contrast, countries advancing in digital governance are leveraging online platforms to provide citizens with accessible, efficient, and transparent services.

An Afghan government employee searchs through debris at his office which was destroyed after a suicide attack in Musayi district of Kabul province on April 14, 2011. Three Afghan policemen were killed on April 14 when Taliban militants struck at a police training centre in one of three suicide attacks to hit Afghanistan on the same day. Insurgents are increasingly targeting Afghan security forces, whose role will increase as US-led NATO troops prepare to hand over responsibility for security in seven areas from July and end frontline fighting in 2014. AFP PHOTO/Massoud HOSSAINI (Photo by MASSOUD HOSSAINI / AFP)

As the world moves swiftly towards integrating AI and other Fourth Industrial Revolution technologies into everyday life, Afghanistan’s technological gap widens. This divide is not merely about the lack of advanced technologies but also reflects the absence of the basic digital infrastructure needed to support such advancements. For instance, the development and deployment of AI require vast datasets, robust digital infrastructure, and a digitally literate population, all of which are currently lacking in Afghanistan.

The contrast between Afghanistan’s technological landscape and those of countries advancing in digital innovation highlights a significant disparity in economic opportunities, educational access, and quality of life. Nations that harness the power of new technologies are experiencing unprecedented growth, efficiency, and competitiveness on a global scale, leaving countries like Afghanistan at a stark disadvantage.

Despite these challenges, the Afghan population’s expectation for efficient and modern service delivery is growing, driven by global connectivity and awareness of technological possibilities. The rapid changes and advancements in the private sector, particularly in mobile telephony and internet services, have exposed the Afghan populace to the potential of digital technologies, creating an expectation gap that the public sector is currently unable to meet.

The lack of e-governance in Afghanistan results in poor service delivery and inefficiency, further exacerbated by the traditional reliance on paperwork and manual processes. Establishing e-governance platforms could streamline processes, enhance transparency, and improve access to government services, aligning more closely with citizen expectations in the digital age.

Afghanistan’s journey towards digital transformation and technological advancement is fraught with foundational challenges that necessitate a multifaceted and strategic approach. To bridge the digital divide, concerted efforts are needed to develop basic digital infrastructure, establish a comprehensive digital identity system, and promote digital literacy among the population.

Moreover, the Afghan government must prioritize the development of an integrated e-governance framework to improve service delivery, enhance government-citizen interactions, and foster socio-economic development. This involves not only investing in technology but also in capacity building, regulatory frameworks, and public-private partnerships to support the digital ecosystem.

As Afghanistan navigates its path towards recovery and development, embracing digital transformation becomes not just an option but a necessity to meet the evolving expectations of its citizens and to participate effectively in the global digital economy. The journey is undoubtedly challenging, but with targeted efforts and international support, Afghanistan can take significant strides towards overcoming its current limitations and harnessing the power of technology for a more prosperous future.

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