Sign In

Communications of the ACM


Lost in Afghanistan: Can the World Take ICT4D Seriously?

cellphone face in an Arabian headscarf, illustration

In August 2021, I was reading Lt. Gen. Sami Sadat's article in the NY Times,24 and it reminded me of the lyrics of Billy Hill's song: "I tried and I tried and I tried and I tried. To make them understand. I tried and I tried and I tried and I tried. But they just can't understand." Like any other Pashtun, I also consider Afghanistan my "Loy Kor" or "Greater Homeland." Therefore, the early days of Afghanistan's fall were full of terrible surprises. There are many more questions in my mind than answers; consequently, it is normal to reflect on the situation from my own academic and professional background in information and communication technologies for development (ICT4D) and computer-human interaction (CHI).

ICT4D is an interdisciplinary field that has emerged in the 1990s when mobile phones, PCs, and Web services became cheaper and accessible in developing countries, and governments and international organizations heavily funded ICT-based initiatives as the tools for achieving development goals.7 In the early days, ICT4D research and practices were influenced by the technology diffusion models and overlooked the integration of co-design and factors of social embeddedness of ICTs, and therefore failed to contribute toward the achievement of inclusive development.16 However, the lessons learned are well documented and have led to developing specific guidelines and new watchwords.4 Based on my academic and ethnic background and recent fieldwork in the northwest part of Pakistan, I present my reflections on the Afghanistan fiasco in this Viewpoint. Following the sutra of effective communication,20 I restrict my reflections to three main points.


No entries found

Log in to Read the Full Article

Sign In

Sign in using your ACM Web Account username and password to access premium content if you are an ACM member, Communications subscriber or Digital Library subscriber.

Need Access?

Please select one of the options below for access to premium content and features.

Create a Web Account

If you are already an ACM member, Communications subscriber, or Digital Library subscriber, please set up a web account to access premium content on this site.

Join the ACM

Become a member to take full advantage of ACM's outstanding computing information resources, networking opportunities, and other benefits.

Subscribe to Communications of the ACM Magazine

Get full access to 50+ years of CACM content and receive the print version of the magazine monthly.

Purchase the Article

Non-members can purchase this article or a copy of the magazine in which it appears.