More intelligent use of phone technology and new media in Afghanistan War

Rarely have I felt so angry.

On 5 August, nine foreign aid workers for the International Assistant Mission (IAM), including Karen Woo, a British doctor, were slaughtered in Afghanistan.

Last week, on 12 August, further details emerged –
Here are two of them (my underlining):

1. “An IAM spokesman said: “Our own research suggests that the murders were not a robbery as initially reported in the press”…..The attack (is) now believed to be the work of a band of insurgent fighters rather than common bandits”.

These insurgents have now been identified as ‘non-local fighters’-
Hizb-i-Islami and the Taliban.

What a surprise.

2. “Ten gunmen with covered faces ran towards their victims shooting in the air and demanding (the medical team’s) satellite phones”.

Why did these insurgents, now identified as the Taliban, want these phones?

I know satellite phones aren’t terrestrial mobile phones but can’t they be tracked?

Why are these phones, whether satellite or mobile, worth killing people for? 

Surely we can find a way to making mobile phones accessible to Afghans?

Why can’t everyone out there have a mobile phone? We’ve got plenty spare.

The size of the bill for the Iraq and Afghan wars is estimated to be $3trillion. That’s 3,000,000,000,000 US dollars (I think).

Let’s give everyone in Afghanistan a goddam phone!
Yes, give them to them – all of them (thus demobilising the Talibans and making their phones worthless). Second-hand will do.

This way, local people can report on ‘non-local’ terrorists in their neighbourhood.

In return, perhaps, we can explain to them what we are doing in their towns and villages. We could espouse the human values of democracy, freedom of speech, women’s rights, liberty and how wonderful are the benefits of Western civilisation. All they see of us at the moment is soldiers with machine guns.

Why can’t we make more intelligent use of new media in this military minefield?

I am sorry. I have said all this before: 
I even stood as a Independent candidate MP for Parliament to raise awareness of this vital, global issue and YouTubed my views for the people of the world –
I accept this is a mere insight. It is not a strategy. It is certainly not an execution (possibly the most inappropriate use of that word in the history of our business).

I know mobile phones need networks and networks need connectivity.

I know mobile phones have batteries to charge. But, with new technology, does the supply of electricity really need thousand of miles of cable underground or ugly pylons? Isn’t there a more local solution? That really would be innovation.

As Alexander Graham Bell, who started this whole thing off, apparently said: “This is such a good product that, one day, every town will have one”.

So, we have gone from supplying the entire population of Afghanistan with mobile phones to providing them all with electricity too. Can it be done for $3trillion?

Alexander Graham bell had a dream. Why can’t we have one too?

Surely there must be a better way than blowing each other to bits.

Otherwise, there’s only despair.

Which is how I feel.

About Hugh Salmon

Business leader. Adman. Writer.
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