Dushanbe, 19 November 1997 (RFE/RL) -- Tajikistan, despite all the tumult and disclocations caused by civil war and its aftermath, has found time to link itself to the rest of the world through modern information technology.
The email network and Internet access in Tajikistan has seen a significant expansion since 1995, when the technology was introduced to the country for the first time by the Central Asia Development Agency (CADA). That's a private U.S. aid body which is active across Central Asia.
Last week an email connection was succcessfuly established between the northern Leninabad Oblast and the Central and Southern regions of Tajikistan, thereby expanding the number of email addresses in the country to 1,500.
CADA has also opened a big office in Khujand, the capital of the Leninabad area, where the public can use the network. One customer, an elderly man, compared the facility with the arrival of television in the 1950s. He came to the center to send an electronic message to his son, who is now living and studying in London.
Many older people remember the first appearance of TV sets in Tajikistan, when only a few families had the opportunity to buy one, and dozens of neighbors came to their garden to watching the wonder boxes.
For a similar reason, namely the small number of people who own their own computers in the Leninabad region, CADA opened its big hall. Anybody who knows the email address of his counterpart can go to this office and send a message free. Anybody can obtain his own email address and can receive messages from everywhere. There is just one limitation: if you send or receive messages of more than 200 Kb (Kilobytes) per month, you should pay for the excess above that figure.
The CADA center is used by hundreds of people, rather like a public post office. Many small businessmen, students, researchers, traders and young people visit this office for their first encounter with the new technology.
The representative of CADA in Leninabad Oblast, Firuza Osimi, told an RFE/RL correspondent that another 250 computers around the region also have access to the main center and enjoy the email according the same rules.
She said also that CADA had donated fax-modems to a number of local organizations such as universities, public libraries, charity foundations and the like. The same action has been taken in the capital city Dushanbe and in the Southern Kulob region.
The network's main systems operator is Isomiddin Atoev, who said that CADA made the first move to introduce the system, and since then enthusiastic users themselves have been pushing for its expansion. He said the only obstacle is that the quality of connections depends on the quality of phone lines, many of which need repairing and updating.
Everybody is waiting for the new optical Transasian line, which will link Central Asia and the Caucasus to Europe and to East Asia. For the present the main provider server is located in the CADA office in the Uzbek capital Tashkent, and all world-wide connection depends on the quality of the existing phone lines. These lines do not at present allow direct connection to the Internet. Connections have to be routed through Tashkent or Moscow. Firuza Osimi says however that direct linkage will be possible by the start of 1998.