infoDev publishes a new study that assesses the mobile applications sector in Afghanistan. Afghanistan has witnessed extraordinary growth in the ICT and mobile sectors, with increasing private sector investments, a growing user population in terms of devices and services and a government that actively supports and promotes the industry.
Initial findings from the study reveal a promising terrain to stimulate the app economy; for example, the existence of a dynamic mobile industry, increasingly affordable internet access, a pioneering landscape for entrepreneurship, and a strong commitment from donors and the government of Afghanistan. The study estimated that the mobile app market in the country will grow from its current US$20–$33 million to an estimated US$48–$60 million, at least twice the current size in the next three years. Gaps identified to the growth of the sector include lack of relevant skills and experience needed for the mobile market, a deficiency in the awareness of the potential of mobile technology, and barriers due to the use of multiple languages and low levels of English language fluency. Methods to access the end user of mobile products remain nonexistent.
The study notes that increased awareness, relevant skills, and access to practical experience in the mobile industry are a top priority. Developers need access to tools that are localized. An alternative application distribution mechanism, which enables access to a greater market and capacity to bill services, is key. To address the problem of end-user access, the study offers a game-changing proposal to establish an app store that is built locally and provides locally relevant content. The app store can raise further awareness and build a pipeline of entrepreneurs and users to further drive the mobile market.
The study underscores the importance of leveraging the existing government initiatives: an ICT incubator and related programs funded through the World Bank Group, other donor-driven programs providing access to funding, and locally driven grassroots programs supporting awareness raising.