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Radio Azadi's SMS Service Hits 100,000 Subscribers

Radio Azadi's SMS feed in Afghanistan (09May2011)
Radio Azadi's SMS feed in Afghanistan (09May2011)
After only three months in operation, Radio Azadi’s SMS Service has garnered over 100,000 regular subscribers.

This number accounts for people in Afghanistan who receive RFE’s twice-daily headline news roundups. Many of these same subscribers also serve as part-time citizen journalists, regularly sending on-the-ground updates to Radio Azadi from all over the country. The SMS messages received regularly by RFE paint a picture of public sentiment in Afghanistan that is hard to match through typical third-party reporting.

Some selections from recent SMS submissions:

Salam from Kabul:

“My question is why even after the activation of the fiber optic the ministry of communications failed to reduce internet costs? The hourly cost of internet with Afghan telecom is 60 Afghani, which is very expensive, and a student cannot afford to use the internet.”

No Name:

“In Polichrkhi region of Kabul, some powerful people are stopping cars and taking 5,000 to 10,000 Afghani from each. Right now we are stopped by them in very cold weather and they are asking for 10,000 Afghani. My car is fully loaded with potatoes that I ahve to ship to Jalalabad and I’m standing in the cold.”

No Name:

“Iran stopping oil shipments to Afghanistan and killing Afghans within Iran is unjustifiable. Why is the Afghan government not paying attention to this? We ask his Excellency Hamid Karzai to defend Afghan rights in Iran.”

Azadi's SMS service was started in late October, 2010. It is the result of a partnership with mobile service provider Etisalat. Customers who subscribe to the free service receive news headlines from Radio Azadi in either Dari or Pashto. They also get SMS messages on their phones with breaking news and emergency alerts.

Despite being one of the poorest countries in the world, Afghanistan has an estimated 57 percent penetration rate for mobile phone use - 17 million subscribers out of a population of 29 million.

For more on Afghanistan, check out RFE's new "Gandhara" blog.

Congratulations to Radio Azadi!