Ars visits Afghanistan’s only PC manufacturer

KABUL, Afghanistan—As a country that has been ravaged by war, terrorism, and mass corruption for the last 30 years, Afghanistan seems like the least likely site for technological development. However, following the American-led invasion of the country, Kabul's basic infrastructure was quickly upgraded as expats and foreign military powers moved in.

On the outskirts of Kabul, one company has set up a factory showing how the future might look. Blue Sonic, a technology company based in Canada, now manufactures phones, PCs, TVs, and other consumer goods assembled right here in Afghanistan. In addition, it seeks to capitalize on an emerging app market and has already begun to develop apps for language skills, children's education, and religious studies.

Blue Sonic’s Technology Manager, Waheedullah Babrakzai, told us that Blue Sonic currently employs 20 technicians but will hopefully grow to 60 workers, including a focus on hiring women. Even with 20 technicians, the company continues to expand its business and has assembled nearly 5,000 units of its all-in-one PC. Those devices were part of a contract that will see Blue Sonic PCs in major universities throughout Kabul.

While Blue Sonic currently operates showrooms in Kabul and Herat, it plans on expanding to every province. A mandatory fee, recently decreed by the President and ratified by Parliament, was extended to public tech purchases and will be used to assist telecom growth.

Dr. Mohammad Najeeb Azizi, Chairman of the Afghanistan Telecom Regulatory Authority (ATRA), sat down with us and described new projects in the works to support education, telemedicine for remote areas, and expanded telecom connectivity. Funds raised through this fee will also subsidize corporations to build telecommunication infrastructure in areas that would typically be too remote or have too small of a market share to be profitable.

In the video video, Ivan Flores visited Blue Sonic’s manufacturing headquarters and one of its storefronts in Kabul. He also spoke to Babrakzai and Azizi about the country’s future plans for Afghan technology.

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