Afghans having tech boom, want iPhones (or China-manufactured copies)

Kabul (Afghanistan) – Ever since the ultra-conservative Taliban regime was ousted in 2001, the 21st century has crept into the formerly technology-free country. Today, people like Mullah Abdul Salaam Zaeef, a former Taliban ambassador to Pakistan who spent almost four years in Guantanamo prison, who today with his black turban, cannot be found without his iPhone. And Mr. Zaeef is just one member of the official government who, today, can hardly live without their technological devices. It’s starting a technology boom in Afghanistan.

The Associated Press is reporting how significant the impact of technology is upon the Afghan people. They write:

“Beyond making life easier, some say the country’s embrace of technology could help break the cycle of 30 years of relentless warfare. It puts at the tip of a finger many things that were strictly outlawed by Taliban leader Mullah Mohammad Omar — music, movies, pictures of people and games like chess.

Young Afghans see the world differently from older Afghans because of their use of the Internet and mobile phones, and their participation in sports, said Shukria Barakzai, a female lawmaker and former newspaper editor.”

Only eight years ago Afghanistan only had a few hundred cell phones. Today they have more than eight million, though the countries population is only about 32 million.

According to NATO, half the country is up to speed with technology, and the nation’s ability to access education and health has improved 10-fold over the Taliban days just eight years ago.

In Kabul, iPhones cost about $800 today down from $1,100 just one month ago. A local electronics store owner named Faridullah, said, “The country is really progressing now. Nine years ago the country didn’t know about mobile phones. We can’t compare today to nine years ago. It’s like a custom now in Afghanistan that even if someone doesn’t have enough money to eat he’ll still carry an expensive cellphone.”

The AP reports that many shops in Kabul are selling China-made iPhone copies that can do most things the real iPhone can. And when the real iPhones set a person back nearly $1000, copies were selling for about $300.

See the original AP article republished on The Globe and Mail.