23.10.2011 - UNESCO Office in Kabul

Afghanistan initiates the first Regional Open Source Software Conference in Kabul

@UNESCO/Mohammad Amin Sadiqi

Afghanistan hosted a four-day Regional Open Source Software Conference-Central Asia (ROSCCA) from 15 -18 October—the first such initiative in the country as well as the region. The Afghan Ministry of Communication and Information Technologies (MCIT), National ICT Alliance of Afghanistan (NICTAA), along with Open Source Afghanistan and UNESCO Kabul Office’s partnership, jointly facilitated the conference.

The former Minister of Finance, Mr. Ashraf Ghani Ahmad Zai, praised the organization of ROSCCA and stressed that using open source is critically needed in countries such as Afghanistan. “If we consider the cost of one operating license US$ 200, then Afghanistan need to spend US$ 3 billion for 15 million users,” he said, “that is a huge cost for the country which suffers from serious economical problems and struggles with poverty.”

Experts on Information and Communication Technology (ICTs) from regional countries including, Afghanistan, Nepal, Iran, India, Pakistan, Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan and with participation of delegations from Italy and USA attended to the conference with the aim of developing a shared understanding and forming a regional open source alliance. The panels during the conference also focused on Innovative use of Free and Open Source Software (FOSS) Technologies—FOSS for Organizations, and FOSS for Socio-economic Development and FOSS for Education.

Mr. Amirzai Sangin, the Minister of Communication and Information Technology, highlighted the Afghan government achievements in the field of communications and information and stressed on the importance of using open source in the country for provision of cheap access to internet and IT services. “We have paved the way for wide-access of Afghan population to internet by fiber optic implementation across the country—a wide access to internet will be completed by Afghans’ orientation to and using open source.” said Mr. Sangin.

Affected by long lasting war, the open source conference facilitation in Kabul is in line with the Afghanistan’s outstanding achievements in the field of ICTs and communications. According to the (MCIT) statistics, over 80% of populations are covered by telecommunications services; there are more than 17 million GSM users in the country with the population estimated to be around 30 million.

During the four days of conference, the participants shared their experiences and country reports on using open source and under a declaration formed the regional open source alliance. They called for more attention of policy makers, civil society as well as media to contribute to awareness raising of open source and taking specific steps to facilitate wide use of FOSS technology in the future.

The conference concluded by an evening event in the historic Babur garden of Kabul where participants enjoyed Afghan local music, play and photo exhibition.

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