- Young men and women interested in information and communication technology (ICT) are being identified and trained to meet the coming needs of the ICT sector in Afghanistan.
- The training is part of the plan under the Afghanistan ICT Sector Development Project to encourage start-ups, innovation, and use of technology.
- The project, implemented by the Ministry of Communication, Information and Technology, supports the overall development of the ICT sector in Afghanistan.
The blue calm is punctuated by typing and the occasional client call. In the far corner of the room sits Ahmad Shah Mohammadi, 29, one of the men responsible for setting up MSoft Technologies. “When I graduated from university in 2014, I and three of my classmates had an idea to establish our own company, but at that time it was just a dream for us,” says Ahmad Shah. “I now run my own company.”
MSoft Technologies is one of 22 companies that have received support from the Afghanistan ICT Sector Development Project under the Ministry of Communication, Information and Technology (MoCIT). The project trains young Afghans on all aspects of ICT business management. The target beneficiary pool is Afghan youth who want to deepen their knowledge of ICT and who are interested in setting up IT companies. “We received training on business planning, management system, administration, and marketing, which enabled us to run our own private IT company,” says Ahmad Shah. His company joins a market that is developing, with a whole range of IT start-ups coming up in Kabul.
Ahmad Shah’s company provides a range of services to over 300 national and international organizations across Afghanistan from different sectors, including government, education, health, corporations, nongovernmental organizations, societies, unions, and banks. “We have developed different programs and software, like financial management systems, archives data management, human resource systems, invitation and visa processing systems, to name a few. We also work on website and branding graphics,” he says.
Ahmad Shah started his company with a small team of four young men. With training and business management support from the project, they were able to expand and hire more people. “If I think about my past, I was searching for a job and struggling in 2014. With support from the MoCIT project, I am now creating jobs in my own company. This is a big achievement for me and my country,” Ahmad Shah says.
The main objectives for the ICT Sector Development Project are to develop an ICT innovation culture, encourage use of technology to create efficiency in government service delivery, promote technological adoption in Afghan society, and support the overall development of the ICT sector in Afghanistan. The project is supported by the International Development Association (IDA), the World Bank’s fund for the poorest countries.
Training Pays Off
The project has used various ways to encourage ICT innovation, for example through a ICT sector development award. The 2016 award was won by Mohammad Ismail Shinwari, who received a cash prize of $2,000. “I made a system that enables people to computerize or make an editable soft copy of a book in Dari and Pashto languages in a few minutes. We never had such software in the past” says Ismail, 26, who graduated from the Computer Science faculty of the Polytechnic University in Kabul city.
The award encouraged and motivated him to work harder. “I spent nine months working on this idea and will continue to work on it, to make it better,” he says.
The thrust of the project is, however, on technical training. Since 2013, the project has trained more than 2,000 women and men. Mehri Najeem is one such student who participated in a four-month long database training. “It was a good opportunity for women like me as we received training related to our fields. The curriculum was quite different and the training approach was very efficient,” she says.
Mehri had graduated from the Polytechnic University, but felt the need to participate in this course to deepen her knowledge on database. “During the program, I was trained in database management and I built my communication network with people,” she says. “The training was good and helped me find a job, which I would not have been able to find otherwise.”
The project has literally handheld Afghan youth who want to be a part of the ICT industry, and those who received support from the project are now helping to meet the demands of the industry in Afghanistan. “We have a huge contract for 2017 with the Ministry of Agriculture, Irrigation and Livestock for developing applications, a website, and other IT systems. This contract will enable me to hire five more people in my company,” says Sayed Arif Sadat, Chief Executive of Turbo Soft Technologies, another start-up that has benefited from the MoCIT project. Although the ICT industry is new in Afghanistan and needs traction, it may soon emerge as a key source of economic growth.