News You Really Need To See: “Social Media In Afghanistan Takes on Life of Its Own”

“Social Media In Afghanistan Takes on Life of Its Own”

The New York Times, Apr. 30, 2014, p.A8

Afghans have long been resistant to central authority — as the United States has found to its frustration — with Afghanistan divided along tribal, cultural, religious and linguistic lines. Its mountains and valleys have stood in the way of communications breakthroughs that have unified other societies.  But a social media network initially financed by the United States is finding a way around those barriers.  It is connecting millions of Afghans equipped with cellphones and other mobile devices, allowing an exchange of ideas that has never been possible in Afghanistan outside Kabul, the capital. …Afghanistan is considered one of the great success stories from the United States’ effort to counter extremists’ violent ideology with social media. … Called Paywast, or ‘to connect’ in Dari, a Persian language spoken by half the population, the network currently has 1.6 million users and has continued operations, although the United States ended its backing for the project in 2011.  The Afghan company that runs the network, also called Paywast, said it began charging a small fee when American financing ended.  American-backed programs in other countries have faltered after the money ran out. … In Kabul, a number of young people said they had stopped using Paywast after the company started charging for the service. Many said they now perceive it as more of a tool for private companies and government ministries to send messages to their employees.”

Quickie Analysis:  An interesting look at a modern way to break down cultural and geographic barriers.

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