Afghans use digital democracy to measure government performance

Afghanistan's President Ashraf Ghani speaks during a joint news conference with U.S. Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel in Kabul Dec. 6, 2014.

Afghanistan's President Ashraf Ghani speaks during a joint news conference with U.S. Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel in Kabul Dec. 6, 2014.  (REUTERS/Mark Wilson/Pool)

A specially developed online tool has helped Afghan voters measure the performance of the country’s new national unity government during its first 100 days in power. The government, it reports, delivered on just four of election promises during that time.

Launched in late September, the tool, called SadRoz, has been tracking the performance of President Ashraf Ghani's administration as the country attempts to emerge from decades of turmoil. SadRoz means “100 days” in Dari, one of Afghanistan’s main languages. The website collected 110 key promises and users have logged in via Facebook or Twitter to post updates about how the government is meeting them in their area of the country.

SadRoz recently reported that, of the 110 promises tracked, four were achieved during the new government’s first 100 days, and progress has been made on 23 others. However, work has not yet started on 83 promised projects.

Pledges accomplished include the signature of a Bilateral Security Agreement with the U.S. and the lifting of a ban that prevented a New York Times reporter from re-entering the country. The national unity government also made good on its promises to merge the country's Office of Administrative Affairs with the President's Chief of Staff office and sign an access to information law.

Ahmad Shuja, founding partner of Impassion Afghanistan, which developed the SadRoz tool, told that the government’s momentum slowed during its first 100 days in office. Delayed Cabinet appointments and last month’s high-profile London conference on the country’s future all took their toll, he said.

“The government started out strong and continued that trend in its first 40 days or so” Shuja explained, in an email. “After that, the cabinet impasse, several foreign trips and the London Conference seemed to have slowed the government's progress on its campaign promises. shows that after day 62, the government made no progress on any of the 110 campaign promises tracked.”

After months of delays, Afghanistan’s government announced its full list of Cabinet nominees on Jan.12.

When SadRoz was launched on Sept. 29, it focused on 100 election promises, a figure which was expanded to 110 when users submitted additional pledges that candidates made in various locations across the country.

Social media is playing a bigger role in Afghan life, according to Shuja. “We have reached hundreds of thousands of Afghans on the [SadRoz] website and on social media,” he said. The SadRoz Facebook page, for example, has reached around 200,000 people through its posts.

Nonetheless, Afghanistan’s digital divide remains wide. In a country of nearly 32 million, barely over 2 million have Internet access, according to the country’s Telecommunications Ministry. Within that number, 1.3 million Afghans use social media.

September’s election marked Afghanistan’s first democratic transfer of power since the U.S. toppled the Taliban regime in 2001.

Follow James Rogers on Twitter @jamesjrogers