Afghan Twitter users meet face-to-face as web booms

Sep 22, 2013

More than 200 of Afghanistan's most active users of Twitter and Facebook gathered Sunday for the country's first-ever social media summit to explore how the Internet is transforming traditional society.

Two days of panel discussions and workshops are being live-streamed, blogged and tweeted on subjects ranging from the impact of technology on next year's elections to how women can avoid being harassed by mobile phone.

"We have brought together social media users from all around Afghanistan, so that they share their experiences and expand use," said Ahmad Shuja, one of the organisers of the Paiwand ("connection") meeting in Kabul.

"Social media is picking up pace as elections get closer. Some of the possible candidates have surfaced on social media and want to be in touch with their supporters through that.

"Social media users who are young and educated can bring a major change in Afghanistan."

Technology activists, Internet entrepreneurs, government officials, authors and NGO staff are among the delegates at the gathering at the American University in Kabul, capital of the war-torn country of 30 million people.

"There are around 3-4 million Internet users and 19 million people who have access to telephones in Afghanistan," said Aimal Marjan, the head of the government's information and communication technology department.

"Around 10 years ago, there was no TV, radio or other media, but today we talk about the issues that people in Washington talk about."

While much of Afghanistan remains deeply rural, cites such as Kabul, Herat and Mazar-i-Sharif are at the centre of busy and vocal Twitter and Facebook communities.

Celebrity gossip and the latest sports news compete with daily updates from the Islamists' guerrilla conflict and grisly of war casualties, torture, hostage victims and destruction.

"Any news that reporters get, they tweet it first, it is very good to get informed of events and find good sources," said Ali Rezaee, a contributor to the Baztab Facebook page that feeds election updates to more than 16,000 followers.

"They even can bring government officials and criminals to justice through social media. It is very important for transparency in elections. Social can report about fraud on the ground."

Potential candidates in the April election to succeed President Hamid Karzai remain wary of Twitter, though former finance minister Ashraf Ghani has built up nearly 4,000 followers.

Many other officials are highly active on the micro-blogging service, including interior minister Omer Daudzai, women's activist Wazhma Frogh and an array of provincial government spokesmen and NATO military departments.

The Taliban, who previously rejected all modern technology, have used Twitter and Internet sites for several years, breaking news of the latest attacks, though their claims are often wildly exaggerated.

One of their most popular accounts, @abalkhi, has nearly 7,000 followers, slightly ahead of the 6,200 followers of President Karzai's official account.

Explore further: Social media a 'double-edged sword' for politicians

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Tajikistan orders Twitter ban

Dec 22, 2012

Tajikistan has ordered local Internet providers to block Twitter, one of more than 100 sites including popular Russian-language social networks starting next week, an industry representative told AFP Saturday.

Twitter announces plans for stock offering

Sep 12, 2013

Twitter announced Thursday, in a tweet, that it has submitted papers for a stock offering, the most hotly anticipated in the tech sector since Facebook's last year.

Singapore PM finally taps into Facebook, Twitter

Apr 20, 2012

Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong joined Facebook and Twitter on Friday to better connect with citizens who have increasingly vented their frustrations with his government on social media.

Recommended for you

Philippines makes arrests in online extortion ring

2 minutes ago

Philippine police have arrested eight suspected members of an online syndicate accused of blackmailing more than 1,000 Hong Kong and Singapore residents after luring them into exposing themselves in front of webcam, an official ...

Google to help boost Greece's tourism industry

12 hours ago

Internet giant Google will offer management courses to 3,000 tourism businesses on the island of Crete as part of an initiative to promote the sector in Greece, industry union Sete said on Thursday.

Music site SoundCloud to start paying artists

19 hours ago

SoundCloud said Thursday that it will start paying artists and record companies whose music is played on the popular streaming site, a move that will bring it in line with competitors such as YouTube and Spotify.

Facebook awards 'Internet Defense Prize'

Aug 21, 2014

Facebook awarded a $50,000 Internet Defense Prize to a pair of German researchers with a seemingly viable approach to detecting vulnerabilities in Web applications.

User comments : 0