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Getting Afghanistan Online 182

Posted by samzenpus
from the like-this dept.
Velcroman1 writes "Imagine living in a country where only 3.5 percent of the population use the Internet. When you ask a neighbor about Facebook, they give you a confused look. Posting a status update on Twitter is a foreign concept, and most citizens still rely on printed newspapers and radio reports. That's life in Afghanistan today, where only 1.5 million people (out of 30M) have Internet access. A new National Social Media Summit intends to change that trend. To be held September 22 to 23 in Kabul, and featuring some 200 speakers, the event will promote the use of social media as a way to not only discuss current news, but to make news. The summit, called Paiwand (or Unity), aims to boost Net use further. It will break out into several themes including social media and government transparency, new media trends and emerging tech."
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Getting Afghanistan Online

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  • Tempting (Score:5, Funny)

    by Nidi62 (1525137) on Monday September 16, 2013 @12:44PM (#44864357)

    When you ask a neighbor about Facebook, they give you a confused look. Posting a status update on Twitter is a foreign concept, and most citizens still rely on printed newspapers and radio reports.

    Almost makes it sound worth the constant threat of bombings, shootings, and oppression by the Taliban.

    • That second part really depends on HOW GOOD the newspaper or radio is.

      If most Americans were to get their news from what passes as newspaper or radio these days, we would probably be in an even sorrier state.

      Internet journalism isn't a whole lot better, but there's not a limited amount of it, so at least there's no editorial staff to completely suppress a story. And it's more of a dialogue, so at least there's a potential for bullshit to be outed as such.

      Again, I'm not saying the internet magica
      • Re:Tempting (Score:5, Insightful)

        by gl4ss (559668) on Monday September 16, 2013 @12:55PM (#44864491) Homepage Journal

        well the local newspaper is as good as the local tribal leader lets it to be.

        in other words it's pure shit. that's why getting them online matters. that's why getting everyone online matters.

        because that's the a way to get them out of their highly localized dictatorship dystopias. now their life is just what the local guy with most guns and dope for his gunmen wants it to be(and unfortunately those guys aren't very industrious - and making things better for their community would make them have less power...).

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by arth1 (260657)

          well the local newspaper is as good as the local tribal leader lets it to be.

          This is true. Whether the local tribal leader is named Jamaludin Badr or Rupert Murdoch.

          • Re:Tempting (Score:5, Insightful)

            by mi (197448) <slashdot-2012@virtual-estates.net> on Monday September 16, 2013 @01:18PM (#44864765) Homepage

            Whether the local tribal leader is named Jamaludin Badr or Rupert Murdoch.

            Except Ropert Murdoch has no means to compel you to stay away from competing publishers — neither by banning the competitors nor by prohibiting you to buy their wares.

            And that is the key difference between a government-provided service (whether it is news, education, health care, food, shelter, or entertainment) and a privately-provided one.

            • by h4rr4r (612664)

              He can simply buy them all, or collude with them.

              For what I see BBC which is the government option, is actually better than the private sources. This odd state of affairs occurs too regularly for my like.

              In theory you would be right, but reality and theory rarely line up.

              • by mi (197448)

                He can simply buy them all, or collude with them.

                And that is fine — as long as the competition remains possible to both produce and consume.

                For what I see BBC which is the government option, is actually better than the private sources

                Though BBC is the government option, they do have competition, which forces them to stay on their toes.

                • by h4rr4r (612664)

                  Do you know what a monopoly is?

                  I highly doubt that is what keeps the BBC being the BBC. I am sure NPR is not doing this for competition either. You are projecting. Competition and the quest for the almighty dollar forces you to stay on your toes, not everyone is motivated by the same forces.

                  • by MightyYar (622222)

                    Both the BBC and NPR have had recent scandals. Someone needs to watch the watchers.

                    • by h4rr4r (612664)

                      Indeed, but the private media is more interested in twerking than doing that. The dailymail which has admitted to making up stories is now the most visited internet site for news. Do you expect them to be able to watch the other news sources, if they can't even be expected to only report things that actually happened?

                    • by mi (197448)

                      The dailymail which has admitted to making up stories is now the most visited internet site for news.

                      Then that is exactly, what their consumers want. You — as most other fans of big government — seem to hold this arrogant opinion, that you "know better" than the little men. While this may very well be, in fact, true, you should not allow yourself (nor the government) to force things upon these contemptible doofusen.

                      All you can (morally) do, is try to ensure, those among the subjects (yourself

                    • by h4rr4r (612664)

                      People want made up news? Are you even reading what you are typing?

                      Fraud is what you think people want? Then why do they even claim to be a newspaper? Why not just publish fiction as fiction?

                    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

                      by mi (197448)

                      People want made up news?

                      People want entertainment. "Made up news" certainly fits. Michael Moore's "documentaries" were anything but, for another example. Though his international awards were in the "fiction" categories, he got rave reviews — and millions of viewers — anyway.

                      Why not just publish fiction as fiction?

                      They seem to be doing fine whatever label you put on them.

                      Are you even reading what you are typing?

                      I wish, you did — and concentrated on the point I'm making, which is, once a

                    • by h4rr4r (612664)

                      Whatever label? Are you aware of what fraud even is?

                      I disagree, I think the public has a right to news from a source that might even try to print news. If we followed your thinking we would soon be in a corporate feudal state.

                    • MSNBC/ABC/NBC/CBS/Fox/NPR still has viewers/listeners; so yes people want made up news.

                      Most people don't want their bubble burst. Political affiliation doesn't matter.

                    • by mi (197448)

                      Whatever label?

                      "Fiction" vs. "non-fiction".

                      Are you aware of what fraud even is?

                      Yes, I am very well aware, what "fraud" is. "Made up" news can be called that in anger, but it really is not — it is not any more illegal for the newspapers to lie, than it is for politicians or, indeed, you and me. (Except under oath, of course.)

                      I think the public has a right to news from a source that might even try to print news.

                      Really? A right? Is there an article in the Constitution (or whatever the supreme law is i

                    • by h4rr4r (612664)

                      So then claiming it is news and printing fiction is not fraud? Lying is saying the sky is red, Fraud is claiming that this is news.

                      Yes, a right. As in the public should be allowed to fund a news source that might print news.

                      You need to read more fiction it looks like, if you did you might know what a corporate feudal state would be. You might also realize we are running headlong towards that end.

                    • by mi (197448)

                      So then claiming it is news and printing fiction is not fraud?

                      "fraud -- (intentional deception resulting in injury to another person)". The second somebody comes out with evidence of having been injured by the deception, the news outlet in question will be in serious trouble...

                      As in the public should be allowed to fund a news source that might print news.

                      There is no ban keeping you from funding whatever your heart desires to fund. But you aren't satisfied with that, are you? You want others — to who

                    • by h4rr4r (612664)

                      How would you suggest taxes be collected?
                      A tribal leader? Like an elected representative?

                      I read lots of non-fiction. That is how I know where we are headed.

                    • by mi (197448)

                      How would you suggest taxes be collected?

                      My objection is not to how they are collected, but to how they are spent. Functioning government, defending the country from the foreign enemies and local criminals are the only morally-allowed expenditures of any funds collected through coercion.

                      People wishing for anything else to be available — be it for themselves or for somebody else — ought to pay on their own. Those unable to afford it (whatever "it" is) may politely ask others of charity, but non

                    • by h4rr4r (612664)

                      I disagree. The people can decide by voting and if need be moving to do what they will with tax money. We tried it your way once upon a time, we had a poorly educated society and rampant corruption. Limiting government to that degree is simply not feasible. Read "The Jungle" to learn more.

                      I was not aware the USA had a government controlled news-source. Other than the private companies choosing to be government controlled in exchange for access to those government figures.

                    • by mi (197448)

                      The people can decide by voting and if need be moving to do what they will with tax money.

                      And just why would the same people, who wouldn't — much to your anguish — punish a news-paper for fraud, be willing to punish anyone else for same?

                      Even where voting is meaningful (and plenty of cynics would have you believe, it is a charade), commercial competition is far more effective. If I decide, I don't like Pepsi-Cola, I don't need to wait until the next vote to have the recipe change — I can

                    • by h4rr4r (612664)

                      The book was the about that time in history.

                      Yeah, why bother reading and critiquing when you can just fight straw men. Russia was a hellhole before the communists and after. Even today it has many of the same problems, they seem to love strongmen and dictators. Mind you they were communists, not socialists. Not sure why you mix those together. Must be easier for your little though experiment.

                      What do socialists have to offer? Look at Germany. Look at the nordic countries.

            • Except Ropert Murdoch has no means to compel you to stay away from competing publishers - neither by banning the competitors nor by prohibiting you to buy their wares.

              And that is the key difference between a government-provided service (whether it is news, education, health care, food, shelter, or entertainment) and a privately-provided one.

              The first paragraph is true. The second implies that all monopolies are created by the government, and that all government services are monopolies. Which is obviously horseshit.

              Also, the US government might suck at providing education, food or shelter, but it does a fine job of providing entertainment.

              • by mi (197448)

                The second implies that all monopolies are created by the government, and that all government services are monopolies. Which is obviously horseshit.

                (Watch your language, sir... ) Anti-trust laws in America are over 100 years old. I wish, they were applied more vigorously.

                I can't think of a government-provided service, a competition for which is not strongly discouraged where not outright legally banned:

                • Though you may still send your children to a private school in many countries, you must pay for it in a
                • by WillKemp (1338605)

                  (Watch your language, sir... ) Anti-trust laws in America are over 100 years old.

                  Incredible as it may seem, the USA is only a tiny fraction of the world!

                  • by mi (197448)
                    True. This site, the /., however, is unapologetically US-centric. Get used to it, sorry.
                    • by WillKemp (1338605)

                      This is an article about Afghanistan. Get used to it. Sorry.

                    • by mi (197448)
                      And the thread is about Ropert Murdoch and whether government should be providing services, that non-government entities can (and do) provide as well... Hard, I know.
                    • by WillKemp (1338605)

                      And Rupert Murdoch owns a very high proportion of the media in Australia - where i am. And we extradited him to you in the first place.

                    • by mi (197448)
                      And Australia has its own anti-trust laws — and had for decades [wikipedia.org]. Please, do not get overly pained, when your country's exciting uniqueness is no explicitly mentioned every time America's is.
              • The second implies that all monopolies are created by the government, and that all government services are monopolies. Which is obviously horseshit.

                Almost all government services are monopolies. In fact it would be hardly fair for the government (with unlimited taxpayer funding) to compete in providing a service with a private business. Almost all monopolies are created by the government. It is very hard to find examples of true monopolies that arose in a fairly free market that lasted for any leng

    • by Zemran (3101)

      I have just realised that the average Afghani is of a higher intellect that the average westerner...

      • hey, this reminds me of a story from 2001 : hee hee [slashdot.org] C= OMGWTFBBQ!
    • the man with AOL is king.

    • by WillKemp (1338605)

      Almost makes it sound worth the constant threat of bombings, shootings, and oppression by the Taliban.

      Sorry to disillusion you, but i started using Facebook while i was living in Kabul in 06!

  • by Anonymous Coward

    "When you ask a neighbor about Facebook, they give you a confused look. Posting a status update on Twitter is a foreign concept"

    To be honest I'd like to live in a world which you describe...

    • by arth1 (260657)

      I don't use facebook, and posting a status update on Twitter is certainly a foreign concept to me too.
      If that's what people think of as Internet, things have gone from bad to worse. If the trend continues, I imagine that taking a bus ride in the future means people randomly standing up and announcing things like "Fluffy had her ear wax removed" and "I bought new shoes". And the rest will applaud and pat their backs.

    • Perfect for the 1986 Toronto dad!
  • Prime Directive (Score:5, Insightful)

    by ciderbrew (1860166) on Monday September 16, 2013 @12:45PM (#44864369)
    I'm sure there are a lot of issues to fix first. But maybe many there are not ready for *all* the stuff on the net just yet..
    • by gstoddart (321705)

      But maybe many there are not ready for *all* the stuff on the net just yet..

      You know, after 25 years of using the internet ... some days I'm not sure I'm ready for all of it.

      There's some strange stuff out there.

    • Re: (Score:2, Flamebait)

      by GameboyRMH (1153867)

      They use little boys as sex slaves over there, and they're no stranger to gory deaths. You can find videos of what the Taliban does with their goats on LiveLeak. They'll probably think the web is mild and prudish.

      "What's this, tentacle rape? Ah so this Internet thing has some balls after all."

    • by slick7 (1703596)

      But maybe many there are not ready for *all* the stuff on the net just yet..

      I'm sure they will get their "O-Bay" up and running in no time. This will be their real time selling and buying of opium and heroin online. With the majority of buyers being CIA.

  • Oh the humanity! (Score:5, Insightful)

    by interkin3tic (1469267) on Monday September 16, 2013 @12:46PM (#44864379)

    Posting a status update on Twitter is a foreign concept

    (silently wipes a tear away from his eye)

    Also, twitter being an American company, is foreign to damn near ALL countries. As a concept, it's still weird to most Americans even.

    • So when Angela Merkel or Vladimir Putin post on Twitter, you think they're doing it for Americans?

      • No. Why do you ask?
    • Yeah. The summary just highlights the bizarre insulated bubble that so many social media enthusiasts seem to live in.
  • Get off my lawn! (Score:5, Informative)

    by sjbe (173966) on Monday September 16, 2013 @12:53PM (#44864461)

    Imagine living in a country where only 3.5 percent of the population use the Internet.

    That's not hard for anyone who is old enough to remember the 1980s. The internet as we know it today is a pretty recent development for most of the population. Before 1990 or so pretty much no one outside of academia had internet access.

    • I was going to title the same thought "Children: This is what your parents did." The Science Fiction Club at RPI - a techie school if ever there was one - mimeographed our bi-monthly newsletter and exchanged copies by mail with other school clubs. That was the only way to do it.
    • In any case, 1.5 million out of 30 million is 5 percent (isn't it?) So the summary implies 1.5 percent (5 - 3.5) have internet access but don't use it. Maybe they use it but just won't own up!
  • by Flounder (42112) on Monday September 16, 2013 @12:56PM (#44864519)
    Introduce an entire country to cat pics on Reddit.
  • Nice (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Dunbal (464142) * on Monday September 16, 2013 @01:01PM (#44864571)
    Glad to see people are focusing on the important issues... Yes after 12 years of non stop war, I'm sure facebook is a huge priority and twitter will stop all the violence.
    • Re:Nice (Score:5, Insightful)

      by AJH16 (940784) <aj AT gccafe DOT com> on Monday September 16, 2013 @01:20PM (#44864785) Homepage

      Giving people the ability to connect to world and understand people from other parts of it is key to peace just about anywhere? When you understand that people are people everywhere, it's far more difficult to get the general populace revved up against some great enemy. People fear the unknown and in the absence of contrary evidence, anything can be said. Now granted, it may have a more limited impact since the Internet itself is perceived as Western, but having people be able to communicate more freely is rarely a bad thing when it comes to trying to prevent popular support for attacking others.

      • by Dunbal (464142) *

        No, there are a whole bunch of people who, when exposed to "the world" and cultures that do things differently, want to destroy them and smash them, not understand them. They are seen as an immediate threat to their way of life. You've forgotten the Buddah statue in Afghanistan? How about all the other "World Heritage" sites that have been defaced or destroyed? How long do you think it would take for the internet to be blamed as the "root of all evil" and its users persecuted and beheaded? Hell there are so

        • by AJH16 (940784)

          I never said it would fix everything, I said it would help reduce fear and reduce conflict, not stop it. There are and will always be people who don't like anyone being different from them. As you even pointed out, we have that in the US just as much as anywhere else, but fundamentally, that is based on fear of the impact of others. Communication and relationships are what make it so that other people aren't monsters and aren't unknown.

          Yes, there will still be problems, yes, there will ALWAYS be people w

        • Only liberals think that some diseases can be "cured" with a healthy dose of education and horizon broadening.

          Nah, it's a subset of liberals, mostly the ones young enough to have not had their ideals squashed by reality over-and-over -- it's just that when the Boomers were that age, they garnered so much press with their antics that the whole Left was painted with the reputation long-term. Now the vast majority of liberals know better; we still want to help people, but very few over age 30 still think it's just a matter of setting people straight.

    • by TheCarp (96830)

      Actually, it could be the answer to violence. How many militants go off to fight for the lack of a keyboard to sit in front of and be a tough guy on the internet? How many bombs will sit, half built, while the builder deftly slays the infidels on the internet with his clever trolling? How many will lose the will to fight today when they rail over injustice only to find themselves pointed at snopes?

      • You obviously haven't read the rants of people debunking snopes.
  • A conference about web-driven technologies, held in a country where they shoot girls for daring to leave the house or go to school - no way that'll be a target for the Taliban...

  • by LoRdTAW (99712) on Monday September 16, 2013 @01:07PM (#44864651)

    "Imagine living in a country where only 3.5 percent of the population use the Internet. When you ask a neighbor about Facebook, they give you a confused look. Posting a status update on Twitter is a foreign concept, and most citizens still rely on printed newspapers and radio reports." ... And life is good.

    Seriously, if bringing the internet to Afghanistan requires telling people about how hard life must be without twitter or facebook then you fail. The internet is more about breaking borders and giving people access to information they otherwise could not get locally. Not endless self serving and attention whoring status updates.

  • What kind of range could you get from airdropping a shipping container with half sat com and half "civilian contractors"?

    is Power and Water a more or less solved problem (for areas with a decent number of folks) and how much of your time would be spent TroubleShooting the locals as apposed to the local network?

  • Those of us who have been here for twelve years have fond memories of JonKatz posting about Junis [slashdot.org], who hid his "ancient Commodore" (one of four in the village) under the boards of a chicken coop. And of course he was obsessed with Linux, mesmerized by open source and Slashdot, and all of that was totally plausible.

    Shine on, Junis and the Slashdot of yesteryear. Shine on.

  • When you ask a neighbor about Facebook, they give you a confused look. Posting a status update on Twitter is a foreign concept, and most citizens still rely on printed newspapers and radio reports.

    This could also be said about China, although they do have their own in country Twitter knock off that does get used and is subjected to heavy government censorship. About all a Chinese person can tell you about Facebook, if they've heard of it at all, is that they are officially blocked from using it.

  • 1.5M / 30M is 5%, not 3.5%. This is not a difficult calculation people.
  • 56.9 % of the male population are illiterate and 87.4 of the female population.
    They can't just watch cat videos all day.

  • by isorox (205688) on Monday September 16, 2013 @02:37PM (#44865571) Homepage Journal

    From 12 years ago
    http://www.tech.slashdot.org/story/01/11/17/204207/Message-from-Kabul [slashdot.org]

    An open information society is inevitable. I was a little surprised last week to receive a forwarded e-mail from Junis, who lives in a small town 35 miles southwest of Kabul. This weekend, a movie theater and video store opened up again in Kabul (rentingIndependence Day), Afghan TV cranked up, and so did the Net. Americans understand all too well that our techno-driven culture produces wonders and dangers, but it's one of the most popular social and political forces in the world. Passion for pop culture relentlessly undermined repressive governments like Poland, East Germany and the former Soviet Union. The world, it turns out, really is porous now. Technology and information will squeeze through every closed nook and crevice. The Taliban never made a dent in the attachment this Afghan programmer and his friends had for it.
    When his message came, the Taliban had just fled, Northern Alliance soldiers had taken over his village, and everybody rushed to barbers to cut off their beards and to nearby holes and hiding spots to dig up their Walkmen, VCRs, TVs, CD players, and -- in Junis's case -- his ancient Commodore, one of four in the village. Cafes had popped up all over, with impromptu dances and parties everywhere.

    Junis's e-mail -- routed to Kabul, then Islamabad, then London -- was a reminder that there are civil liberties, and then there are civil liberties. Computers had been banned under penalty of death by the Taliban (except for the Taliban themselves), along with music and TV. Junis, a computer geek obsessed with Linux, had first e-mailed me years ago while I was writing for Hotwired. He was genial and obsessed with American culture. He loved martial arts movies, anything to do with Star Wars, and rap. He was perhaps the Taliban's prime kind of target. (Now he's furiously trying to download movies he's missed and is mesmerized by open source and Slashdot.)

    "I could still see the dust of the pick-up trucks carrying the Taliban out of my village," he wrote, "and some friends and I went and dug up the boards of a chicken coop where I had hid the computer. They might have beaten or killed us if they'd found it. It was forbidden, although they used computers all of the time." He claims American commandos are skulking around dressed as Northern Alliance tribesmen.

    Junis describes life under the Taliban as brutal, terrifying and profoundly boring. What the people in his town -- especially the kids -- missed most was music, posters of Indian and American movie stars (he'd kept his own decaying poster of Madonna), and American TV. Junis missed the fast-changing Web and sees, he says, that he has fallen "forever behind," and that programming is more complex than ever. But at least "Baywatch," which everyone in his town acutely missed, is back, and there's already a lot of talk about "Survivor." Junis predicts "Temptation Island" will be the number one show in Afghanistan within a month.

    If the world needed another demonstration of America's most powerful weapon -- not bombs or special forces but pop culture -- it got it again this week. People all over the planet fuss about whether this healthy and democratic or corrupting and dehumanizing, but people's love for American techno-toys, TV shows, music and movies is breathaking. Watching TV pictures of tribesman on horseback, it's easy to forget that technology reached deep into this culture as well. Junis says phone service around Kabul remains spotty, but reporters, U.N. workers and foreign soldiers are wiring up. He's already made his way to some sex sites, and wishes he had a printer.

    There are many computers in Afghanistan, Junis said, many in clusters in cities like Kabul and Kandahar (news reports have frequently mentioned that Bin-Laden's organization used both e-mail and encrypted files to communicate). Computer geeks are already hooking up with one anot

  • Since Afghanistan's literacy rate was 43.1% among men in 2000, I wonder if they could care much at all.

    And if you're wondering why I don't mention the literacy rate among women, you know so little about Afghanistan that you should be reading XKCD instead, where your ignorance is anticipated.

    No, the Afghans don't much care about the Internet. Those who do are either the problem, or will be disposed of if the Taliban regain control.

  • This sounds like excellent territory for the Linux based, programmer friendly, free software "One Laptop Per Child" project. The lack of expensive computing power and Windows integration reduces its usefulness for games and expensive or pirated software, they're surprisingly robust, their power consumption is minimal, and their brilliant use of LCD technology makes the batteries last far longer and be far easier to recharge in what is effectively a third world nation.
    Quoting from the website for OLPC: "Th

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