There are Some Positive Statistics in Afghanistan,
1 Million Afghans connect to Roshan’s GSM Network, October 18th, 2006
A million of anything is a lot! Imagine a million stars shining in the sky on a clear night. Imagine a million happy people all sharing one good thing in common. Imagine a young dynamic company achieving the magic milestone of one million customers.
Just over three years ago in a country devastated by decades of warfare, and with little or no communications infrastructure, a company began its operations to establish and operate a state-of the-art cellular communications network. The odds were great and the hurdles seemingly insurmountable, yet this was a challenge worth taking on. Motivated by the desire to be an active contributor to the reconstruction of Afghanistan, Roshan took the first steps in February 2003 to set up its communications operations. On July 27 of the same year, its very first commercial subscriber was activated on the network.
It took nine months to get from 1 to 100,000 subscribers. Almost 15 months later, the 500,000 subscribers mark was reached. Realizing the immense benefits that cellular communications offered – saving time and money and bringing people closer together – the Afghan people enthusiastically took up connections all across the country. At once life became so much more meaningful.
By August 2006, Roshan had 900,000 active subscribers and suddenly the magic milestone of one million subscribers seemed within reach. At the current rate of activation, the millionth customer is expected to become a reality towards the end of October or in early November. And what a remarkable milestone this is going to be, for its implications are far-reaching and well beyond just commercial success for the company. Indeed the story of Roshan in Afghanistan is an interesting and educative case study of how a business can be the very lifeblood of society, driving economic growth on the one hand and promoting social integration and harmony on the other. This becomes all the more important given the context – a war-torn country deeply desirous of returning to normalcy.
Landline communications even before the war period was practically non existent in Afghanistan. Poor communications infrastructure was perhaps one of the primary causes that contributed to the country’s underdevelopment. The oil boom in the Middle East was described by one observer as ‘going from camels to Cadillacs’ and in less than a decade, the standard of living and the quality of life in Middle Eastern countries became comparable to that in the West. The scenario is very different in Afghanistan. But yet there is a transformation taking place, if not at the dizzying pace of the Middle Eastern countries. This slower but nevertheless steady change is being fuelled by the art and science of communications.
For Afghanistan rather than “from camels to Cadillacs”, it is from courier pigeons to cell-phones. And here, we are not talking about the now seemingly ancient cell-phones of yesteryears which when they were first launched, had to be carried around like a toolbox. Afghanistan went straight to GSM cell-phones. All that the toolbox of the past did was to make and receive calls. Well isn’t that what a cell-phone is supposed to do?
Yes, but your sleek, wafer-thin and light-as-a-fountain-pen cell-phone of today also takes colour photos, records voice messages, sends text or voice messages, lets you listen to music, stores data of a myriad contacts, acts as an alarm clock and a notebook and a scheduler in addition to a dozen other tasks.
So I am not so sure which is the greater change – “camels to Cadillacs” or courier pigeons to cell-phones. High-tech cell-phones need reliable and fast networks to operate on. There is no point in having a cell-phone with multiple features if the network you are on cannot support these. In the case of Afghanistan, the Roshan network has been maintained at a very high quality standard throughout. This has therefore led to the rapid growth in the number of its subscribers and its positioning as a leader in the telecommunications industry.
The effect of all this on the country and its reconstruction process has been direct and substantial. The unparalleled growth is evidence of economic progress in Afghanistan. Progress that Roshan is spearheading the economy by improving lives and businesses, giving people the ability to communicate and creating jobs.
As the company gets closer to its one millionth subscriber, one million lives have been changed for the better. Modern cellular communications have opened up a whole new world in the country and anew milestone has been reached.
A moment to be proud of, for both Roshan and for one million Afghanis.