The Innovation and Technology Research Center for Afghanistan (ITRCA) hosted the second-panel discussion at the Ministry of IT’s institute ICTI on 17 July 2018. The panel discussion included members from the Government, the Private Sector, and the Academia. Members from all these sectors were invited to talk their minds about how their respective sectors contribute to the development of ICT in Afghanistan. The panel comprised of Mr. Zahid Stanikzai, Director of Information Systems Security Directorate (ISSD), Ministry of Communications and IT (MCIT), to provide his opinion on the development of ICT in Afghanistan from government’s perspective. Mr. Nasrat Khalid, an entrepreneur and founder of AWAL and ITRCA, was on the panel to express his opinions about the development of ICT from a business perspective. Miss Zohra Zekriya and Mr. Jawad Saidi joined the Panel from an academic’s point of view.
The 2nd-panel discussion begin by welcoming the guests and participants and after the all the formalities were carried away, the panel was introduced and invited to the stage by the panel moderator Mr. Abdul Saboor Mobariz who is an active member of ITRCA.
Mr. Mobariz asked the first question from Mr. Stanikzai regarding the government’s take on the ICT development and its role in supporting academic and the private sector. Mr. Stanikzai initially explained the progress the government has made in the ICT sector, especially the progress of MCIT. Mr. Stanikzai explained how the government is working on a roadmap that will cover the improvement of ICT service delivery, service quality, and security. One of such projects is known as National exchange point (NIXA) which was initiated recently and will have a great positive impact on Afghanistan’s ICT infrastructure. He further explained how the government is always open to collaborations with the private sector and academia. Zahid called on the academia to provide talent to the market and conduct research studies and called on the private sector to collaborate with the government in projects and developing infrastructure.
Mr. Mobariz, the moderator, switched to Mr. Khalid for the next question, asking him about the role of private sector in the development of ICT and the boulders that creates problems between government and private collaborations. Mr. Khalid answered the question by elaborating that ICT plays an important role in development in Afghanistan. He further explained that the projects and initiatives are what government organizations do and then bring in the private sector to work on the project. However, in Afghanistan, the government use their own resources instead of collaborating on those projects. And in response to the second part of the question he answered that due to regular change in administrations in government institutions, it makes it difficult for the private sector to collaborate with the government.
Mr. Mobariz then switch his questions to Miss Zohra and Mr. Jawad asking them about the status of academia in Afghanistan, the role academia can play in the development of ICT and what they think of the current curricula of the universities in Afghanistan. Miss Zohra Zekria was first to respond by providing statistics related to the computer science and the rise of students in the mentioned faculty. She later insisted that the curricula do need changing; however, it does not change according to the needs of the market. It changes in its own timely manner and the government does need to pay attention to this. She further added that though the academia understands the importance of their role in the development of ICT in Afghanistan. They, however, due to financial or other needs have jobs that do not allow them to focus on their role as an academic. Mr. Jawad Saidi further added to Miss Zohra’s answer that academia plays an important role in the development of ICT in any country. It is their research that set the stepping stones for other people to develop systems on. He emphasized that the relationships between academia, private sector and government must be strengthened and discussed in a larger context called “Innovation System”. Further, he commented that it is important for academia to incorporate skill set with the traditional curricula of the university. Mr. Stanikzai and Mr. Khalid approved of the point and commented that there is a lack of talent. They further elaborated that by the talent they mean people with a certain skill and people who have excelled in their set of skills i.e. has specializations.
The panel discussion discussed the above issues in further details, the opinions of highly qualified delegates from government, private sector and academia were expressed to the questions of the moderator of the panel. The panel discussion was intense, however, because of the importance of the questions of the audience it was important to halt the discussion and move to the audience. The audience had questions from all the participating sectors and the questions were answered accordingly.
Photos of the event are listed below