Please tell us a little about your background.
I have worked as a technology entrepreneur and Internet advocate with vast experience in technology systems, content, and education. I have also helped tens of startups to establish and grow.
Previously, I served as Board Director with over seven national, regional and global institutions, such as Afghan Computer Science Association, Open Source Afghanistan, National ICT Alliance of Afghanistan, Open Source Alliance of Central Asia, World IT and Services Alliance, Internet Society Afghanistan, and IT Companies Association of Afghanistan.
In 2016, the UN Secretary-General appointed me as a member of the Global Internet Governance Forum’s Multi-Stakeholder Advisory Group to advise the Secretary-General about the program and schedule of the UN IGF meetings.
Finally, I have worked with Microsoft, Facebook, and Google on various technology and content-related initiatives.
TRA issues licenses and permits related to telecom and Internet services oversees and fosters competition in the telecom market.
Can you please tell us about the establishment and scope of work of ATRA?
ATRA was formed in 2006 with the primary aim to develop and regulate the telecom market. The Telecom Law of Afghanistan establishes the ATRA as the highest authority in the telecom industry of Afghanistan. The law was adopted in 2006 and amended in 2011 and 2017. Now ATRA has clear functions and responsibilities including regulating the telecom market, developing telecom standards and policies, enforcing regulations and enabling environment for investors and providing access to telecom services particularly in rural areas through Universal Access policies.
In addition, ATRA issues licenses and permits related to telecom and Internet services, oversees and fosters competition in the telecom market—all in a non-discriminatory and transparent manner, and develops ICT infrastructure and services, manages the allocated spectrum across the country, and protects consumer rights.
What are some of ATRA’s achievements during the past few years?
Till first quarter of 2020, we had six MNOs (Mobile Network Operator) working in 34 provinces of Afghanistan, one landline operator, 7210 Mobile Telephone Base Stations, 90% Mobile Telephone Population Coverage (Approx.), 134,636 Landline Telephones, 34,659,083 GSM subscribers, 22,475,500 GSM Active subscribers (90 days), 16,776 CDMA Subscribers, 4G Broadband subscribers, 6,594,203 3G Broadband subscribers, 62 ISPs, 41 ICT Solution Providers, 113 TV Operators, 331 TV Transmitters, 310 FM Radio Operators, 813 FM Radio Transmitters and 183 Billion Investment in Telecom Sector in Local Currency.
What are your thoughts about the future of Afghanistan’s telecom sector?
I see Afghanistan’s telecom sector restructuring towards a consolidated and consumer-focused future. We are working hard to implement ATRA’s vision which affirms to bring Afghanistan to the status of a country within the ten best digital economies in the region by 2023, with high connectivity and appropriate regulatory conditions, marked by increasing awareness and utilization of high quality and affordable services, with a target of 50% broadband penetration by 2022, and 90% by 2027.
With shifts in technology, regulatory, and customer behavior, ATRA will focus on long-term sustainable growth of the sector, digitalization of the infrastructure, online safety, capacity building, and consumer rights protection.
ATRA’s vision affirms bringing Afghanistan to the status of a country within the ten best digital economies in the region by 2023.
What are the main deficiencies in the telecom sector?
The future uncertainty in the telecom sector around the world is driven by rapid technological changes as well as regulatory and customer demand changes. Even though Afghanistan’s telecom sector has had notable achievements in the past few years, there is always room for improvement. Lack of adequate equipment, lack of capacity in quality of service, and insufficient awareness of consumer rights are a few examples of the current deficiencies in the sector. Additionally, the political atmosphere and security pressures play an important role in determining the shortcoming of the sector.
What are your thoughts on the existing telecom legislation, should we expect any amendments to the law?
It is no puzzle that the telecom industry has revolutionized and evolved throughout the years. This presents both opportunities and challenges for regulators. ATRA needs to advance regulatory objectives designed to address potential investment and innovation opportunities. The current legislation addresses many facets of the sector, but it will require amendment and revision depending on the future of ICT industry transformation.