Saturday, December 05, 2009

Cellphones For Afghanistan

The world throws away enough cellphones every month to provide one for every adult in Afghanistan. If people were to throw them a little farther, so that they landed in that distant place, how would Afghan politics change?

Could we leave sooner?

Of course, Afghans already have some phones. The cell towers are a target for the Taliban - except that the gunmen on the ground and the Taliban middle management like to use their cell phones. They are conflicted. Writes Strategy Page:
"In Afghanistan, the Taliban leadership has recognized the phone network vulnerability, and the addictive nature of cell phones. So the Taliban have tried to stop cell phone companies from moving in with their cell towers, and attractive (to Taliban gunmen and middle management) cell phone service. In this, the Taliban have largely failed, and the cell phone addiction of their fighters has caused no end of problems when the U.S. hacks the cell networks."
So more cell phones would enable the resolution of political differences.

Suppose we air-dropped old cell phones to people who didn't have any towers? Would they want towers?

Suppose we paid for free minutes?

It may not be the addictiveness of cell phones that bothers the Taliban. The fact that the message of their presence gets around could be more a problem. Staying hidden matters.

When every victim can squeal to the world, how can an aggressor survive?


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