I have been interested in computers since I was in Junior High school, but computers are a luxury in Afghanistan and it's not easy to get one. On the other hand, GSM phones with only telephone and SMS features are considered necessities rather than luxuries. I have always wanted high-tech items such as computers to be available to everyone, not just those in the upper-classes. I majored in computers science at university, and the desire to study information and communication for development (which I now know as ICT4D) grew within me.

“...perhaps there is a way that electronic money can be used to help solve the problems of public transport.”

Unpopular bank services in Afghanistan

Unlike in Japan, not many Afghan people have bank accounts. One of the reasons is that the people don’t really trust banks, but another important reason is that it costs money to open and maintain an account. So only rich people have bank accounts. This is a big problem. I started thinking about ICT solutions for banking services, that all the Afghan people can take advantage of.

Providing a solution for the inefficient public transport system in Kabul

There are serious problems with the public transport system in the capital of Afghanistan, Kabul. The most obvious one is poor public transport infrastructure. This root problem can only be solved with a massive investment that is far beyond my means. But I thought perhaps there is a way that electronic money can be used to help solve the problems of public transport. Kabul has a number of buses and taxis, but they are not being used efficiently. For example, the bus driver takes cash and gives back changes. It takes time and the bus is stopped during this process. It is a waste of time, of course with the engine running the whole time, it is also a waste of fuel.

Enjoying your train trip is part of Japanese culture

People seem to enjoy taking the train in Japan. It was very weird and surprising to me. Because public transport for the residents of Kabul is a real headache that causes a lot of stress. This difference was quite startling for me. I knew I had a lot to learn from the Japanese system where electronic money in the form of cards like ICOCA and PiTaPa is widely used. Just living in Japan was is a learning experience for me.

Hassani Ehsanullah