Mobile Phones Connect Remote Areas in Afghanistan

In Afghanistan's isolated areas, where traditions and infrastructure have changed little over centuries, mobile technology is connecting people and changing lives one step at a time.

Telecom Development Company Afghanistan—operating under the name Roshan, which means “light” and “hope” in the two national languages—has been able to expand its mobile network infrastructure nationwide as well as improve its range of services with an assistance package from ADB's private sector operations.

Roshan is the country's largest operator with more than 6 million subscribers. Demand for mobile phones was strong from the outset, but service rollout was constrained by limited financing options in Afghanistan's challenging political and security environment.

ADB approved the first loan of $35 million in late 2004 which was followed by a $40 million loan in mid-2006. The second loan was accompanied by a complementary financing scheme of up to $30 million and a political risk guarantee of up to $15 million. In July 2008, ADB approved a third loan of $60 million and a $10 million political risk guarantee.

The project was successful in ushering in a telecom revolution in Afghanistan, allowing it to catch up with the rest of the world in terms of 21st century mobile technology. Roshan’s innovative services such as telemedicine, mobile trade and mobile banking have helped improve lives and livelihoods, and empowered women. The project is evidence of ADB’s private sector operations focus on innovative development solutions.

ADB received an award in a ceremony hosted by US Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner on 7 June in Washington, D.C. ADB President Haruhiko Kuroda received the award for Excellence in Fragile States Engagement for the Afghanistan Telecom Development Project.