Today, the vast majority of university students and lecturers from 18 universities in Baghlan, Balkh, Bamiyan, Faryab, Ghazni, Helmand, Herat, Jawzjan, Kabul (four universities), Kandahar, Khost, Kunduz, Nangarhar, Paktia and Parwan provinces are connected to the information highway through the SILK-Afghanistan project. A further four universities in Badakhshan, Kapisa, Samangan and Takhar, are expected to be added to the network by summer 2013.
Over the past few years, the Afghan Ministry of Higher Education and some fifteen universities across the country have been equipped with video conferencing systems and the aim is eventually to equip all universities with this facility.
A Metropolitan Area Network (MAN), which has been up-and-running since autumn 2009, provides internet connectivity to a number of government and academic institutions in Kabul. The MAN consists of a WiMax “blanket” connected to the network operation centre at Kabul University.
SILK-Afghanistan is jointly funded by the NATO Science for Peace and Security (SPS) programme and the US Department of State. In addition to connectivity, it provides extra funding to build information technology (IT) infrastructure and to train IT staff at the universities.
The programme builds on NATO’s experience of initiating and running the “Virtual Silk Highway” project, which provided high-speed internet access (via satellite) in NATO’s partner countries in the South Caucasus and Central Asia from 2002 to 2010.