INTERVIEW: Rollout of wireless services in Afghanistan transformed the country’s communication, finance, health and education sectors, Shainoor Khoja, MD of Roshan Community (a division of operator Roshan), told Mobile World Live.

Speaking at the recent GSMA Mobile 360 MENA event in Dubai, Khoja (pictured) said when the operator launched in 2003 the country’s population had very limited access to communications services with only 10,000 landlines for a population of 23 million.

Mobile penetration was reportedly less than 1 per cent and, she added, none of the additional mobile-led services traditionally associated with developing markets were available in the country.

“You could get a satellite phone you could pay $12 per minute for,” she said: “So, to the general public it was unavailable.”

She explained the situation had now been turned around: “Fast forward 15 years and 90 per cent of the population now has access to a mobile phone and they can make calls anywhere around the world.”

“Now, it’s the products and services on top of this where the impact is – we now have m-Pesa that allows the unbanked to be banked, salary dispersement and a reduction in corruption. It has allowed microfinance to get to rural parts of the community.”

She added Roshan had also developed a range of remote healthcare and education applications, which had driven the success of the company and the country.

Roshan is one of the largest companies, investors and taxpayers in Afghanistan, contributing 6 per cent of its GDP. To watch the full interview outlining its key initiatives and progress so far, click here.