One of the innovation teams discus Easy Hajj – a mobile and Internet tool to speed up the complex and time-consuming process of applying for Hajj, the annual pilgrimage to Mecca
CHALLENGE Afghanistan’s information technology sector is one of the country’s success stories. There has been a huge expansion in the use of mobile phone technology and Internet penetration in recent years. In 2001 Afghanistan’s communications infrastructure was almost non-existent, whereas today most Afghans have access to a mobile phone. The country still faces, however, huge social problems related to poverty, illiteracy, and lack of electricity. With the extraordinary growth in new technology, Afghans need to find new technology solutions to its age-old problems.
INITIATIVE Internews supported by USAID, organized Afghanistan’s first Innovation Lab in Kabul in January 2012. In order to present Afghan ICT experts with a number of practical new technology ideas, this initiative challenged participants to apply these ideas to some of the country’s many social challenges in health, education, agriculture and other sectors. Four-day Innovation Lab was attended by 42 Afghan ICT specialists and students, who worked in groups to develop technological tools and applications to respond to particular needs.
RESULTS Six innovative ICT tools were designed with a focus on simple solutions to enhance social services for Afghan citizens across the nation:
· Easy Hajj: Using Internet and mobile technology to speed up the registration of Muslim pilgrims travelling on the annual Hajj to Mecca.
· Dehqan: A mobile-based technology to provide market and weather information to farmers.
· Polio Tracker: Using SMS to track incidents of polio in an effort to help eradicate this crippling disease.
· M-Education: A mobile-based system to send teacher training materials to community teachers in remote villages.
· IDP R U OK?: A mobile technology designed to discover the needs of internally displaced people (IDP) and improve the humanitarian response.
Several projects will be developed further with grants provided by the World Bank and Afghanistan’s Ministry of Communications and Information Technology.
Afghan Innovation for Social Change