NATO Chronicles - Broadband for Afghanistan (with subtitles: English)

Uploaded by NATOCOMMUNITY on 18.11.2010

Students, a teacher, an on-line library, computers…
A commonplace scene.
“We can access from our site to digital library and students can access their quarters
like here with the login page, with username and password.”
We’re in Kabul.
The university of the Afghan capital, destroyed by the civil war of the 90s and abandoned
by the Taliban regime, is just beginning to rise from its ashes.
The 20,000 students today benefit from a satellite antenna installed by NATO in 2004,
as part of the SILK Afghanistan project. The project is coordinated by Walter Kaffenberger
and its aim is to equip the entire country’s universities with broadband internet.
“This is the first dish which we have installed here in the country, with the aim to open
up this country, to make information which is available
on the internet also available to students and professors in Afghanistan.”
Since 2003, NATO’s main mission has been to assist the Afghan government to secure
and stabilise the country.
But in addition to military operations, performed jointly with the Afghan National Security
Forces, NATO’s mission is also to help the population,
to support the economy and to develop infrastructure, hand in hand with the local authorities.
The SILK Afghanistan project is a good example of this.
Connecting the University of Kabul to the internet was an investment in technology,
education and youth in a country that is in the throes of renewal.
Being an academic himself, Walter was able to count on the support of his friend Hamidullah
Amin, the Chancellor of the University.
“Previously, because of destruction in Afghanistan and especially in Kabul University, that we
suffered quite a lot, I mean, we didn’t have that connexion. So
this is a must for every university, so probably Kabul University was the first university
in Afghanistan to have this internet connexion, which is
The University of Kabul, in the centre of a capital city that is home to 5 million people,
was the first to be connected to the internet thanks to the SILK Afghanistan project.
The project first saw the light of day in 2002 in the countries of the Caucasus and
of Central Asia, before being extended to Afghanistan today.
After Kabul in 2004 and the installations in Herat and Kandahar in 2009, a second installation
phase in 2010 is due to connect the universities of Jalalabad, Khost, Sheberghan, Mazar-e-Sharif,
and, first of all, that of Bamyan.
Bamyan, in the heart of the Hindu Kush mountains. The majestic valley that used to shelter the
giant Buddhas that were destroyed by the Taliban, is today a haven of peace,
natural beauty and historic treasures.
But Bamyan is also a valley that is home to 50,000 people, perched at a height of 2,500
metres and locked away in the centre of the country.
Here, like everywhere in Afghanistan, there is a crying need for modern facilities and
an insatiable appetite for education.
We are at the home of an ordinary family, that of 20-year old Tahera. She lives with
her four sisters and her mother. Her father works in their fields, at the other
end of the province, a day’s travel away from Bamyan.
Like many Afghans, the family took refuge in Iran during the Taliban period. They have
returned to their country so that Tahera and her sisters can continue studying.
“Their father has worked very hard so they can go to school and university.
When they have finished their studies, my girls might work, but it’s up to them to
decide. They will do what they please, I don’t force
anything on them.”
Tahera has chosen to study sociology. She is in her second year and plans to do a Masters
in two years’ time.
“The war prevented progress and caused a lot of delay in various areas.
That’s why I absolutely want to get my Masters degree to be able to help my country, even
if it’s not much. That’s my aim.”
The University of Bamyan has over 1,000 students and more than 100 of them are female.
Walter Kaffenberger has finally arrived in Bamyan after two years of preparation and
many logistical difficulties.
This is where the new phase of the SILK Afghanistan project will start, with the installation
of broadband internet at the university.
The land convoy transporting the satellite antenna has just arrived, and the technicians
are already hard at work.
In all, the project will cost 10.5 million Euro over 3 years, and it is funded by NATO.
Tahera watches the mounting of the antenna, a spectacle that she will be among the first
to benefit from.
“We are delighted to finally have internet. Thanks to it, we can further our knowledge
of the world and have contact with other countries, so it’s great.”
While installation is still under way at the university, Walter has a meeting with the
The province of Bamyan is run by a woman, Habiba Sarabi, a former Minister of Women’s
“Culturally, the students can have connexions with other parts of the world and they will
connect culturally to each other. The professors can get the teaching material
from internet, which is very very important, and, the same, the students can get the teaching
material and also can contact with the other students,
students of the other universities, for example Kabul University, Herat University, Mazar-e-Charif
University, different Universities they can contact and
get more information about that, and of course some other material, and other websites they
can get other material from, teaching material. These
are the positive points that the students and professors both can get benefit from Internet.
Internet can make everything very easy.”
“And then our second focus will be also on the provision of this education material,
online courses we are offering, we try to make available for students in Afghanistan.”
It will take 24 hours for the antenna to be fully installed and accurately aimed at the
satellite and finally become operational.
Tahera and the students of Bamyan will at last be able to discover the resources of
broadband internet, which will replace their old, slow and laborious system.
“Ok Tahera, how does it feel now to be able to access this webpage which is so important
for your studies here with such a high speed.”
“With the arrival of broadband internet, things are easier for us, we get through our
research and other work more quickly, and we get faster results.”
Walter guides Tahera through the site created by the German university of Bochum that enables
Afghans to extend their studies of all subjects by distance learning.
“It’s very interesting to be here in Bamyan and to be able to take part in lectures at
another university elsewhere, in another part of the world.
I think that most of the students would like to take part in this sort of program. It enables
us to study to a very high level.”
Walter cannot leave Bamyan without getting a closer look at the former site of the Buddhas.
A climb that ends in a breathtaking view over the valley and the University of Bamyan.
“We are spanning a bridge between these ancient stones here and to the 21st century
by connecting this university and make all the knowledge which is available
on the Internet available for the students of this valley,
of this whole province and maybe beyond. A very satisfying thought to be able to contribute
to this…”