Thanks to a $3.1 million grant from the US Government, high-speed internet connection will be established in the universities of Baghlan, Faryab, Ghazni, Helmand, Kunduz, Paktia and Parwan. The grant will also provide funding to increase the bandwidth at the Kabul Educational University and Kabul Polytechnic University, as well as at the universities of Balkh, Herat and Nangarhar, which are all already serviced by the NATO project. Work started on 1 October 2010 and is scheduled to run through to September 2013.
The project will be carried out and facilitated by the US Embassy in Kabul and the Afghan Ministry of Higher Education, in partnership with NATO’s “SILK-Afghanistan Board” of world-renowned experts. The board has been an integral part of the Alliance’s internet project popularly called “Virtual Silk Highway”, named after the Great Silk Road trading route linking Asia and Europe.
Initiated in 2002 under the NATO Science for Peace and Security (SPS) Programme, the project is being managed by NATO’s Public Diplomacy Division. Over the past eight years it has provided free high-speed internet access via satellite to the academic communities in the Caucasus and Central Asian countries. Afghanistan’s Kabul University was included in 2006.
Apart from improving higher education in Afghanistan, the SILK-Afghanistan Programme helps develop Afghan capacity especially in information and communication technology, a vital component of any growing economy. It also offers opportunities to use distance education as a teaching tool, including video-conferencing of high-level events like NATO Summits and NATO-Afghan Students’ Fora. It is part of a wider communication connectivity initiative in the country and the region at large.
Spreading further throughout the country, the SILK-Afghanistan Programme is key to fostering cooperation and mutual understanding between people both locally and internationally. Today, the Government Media and Information Centre in Kabul, as well as 28 000 university students and lecturers from 11 universities in Balkh, Bamiyan, Herat, Jawzjan, Kabul (4 universities), Kandahar, Khost and Nangarhar provinces are connected to the information highway through the SILK-Afghanistan Programme.