One Cell Phone at a Time: Countering Corruption in Afghanistan

Dan Rice and Guy Filippelli
04 September 2010
via Michael Yon Online

When Americans first entered Afghanistan in 2001 there was little infrastructure and no banking system in an entirely cash economy. Nine years later it is still a cash economy and 97% of the country remains “unbanked”, but Afghanistan’s thriving telecom industry offers a way to minimize graft. From a standing start, Afghanistan now boasts a cellular network of 12 million cell phones in country of 28 million. Mobile technology is the largest legal, taxpaying industry in Afghanistan and the single greatest economic success story in the country since the fall of the Taliban. The existing network also offers a proven way to help defeat corruption.

In 2009, the Afghan National Police began a test to pay salaries through mobile telephones, rather than in cash. It immediately found that at least 10% of its payments had been going to ghost policemen who didn’t exist; middlemen in the police hierarchy were pocketing the difference. Salaries for Afghan police and soldiers are calculated to be competitive with Taliban salaries, but beat cops and deployed soldiers had been receiving only a fraction of the amount paid by US taxpayers because of corruption in the payment system. Most Afghan cops assumed that they had been given a significant raise, when, in fact, they simply received their full pay for the first time–over the phone.

As the US enters a critical year in Afghanistan with unprecedented amounts of international assistance and contracting dollars on the table, mobile money allows Afghanistan to immediately leap from a cash economy to a mobile money e-commerce system. The existing national cellular network can create a banking system without bricks, mortar—or corruption…

The article continues here.

Comments are closed.