Kabul, 11 December, 2012-Solution Exchange, an online network of professionals who can offer advice on anything from garbage collection to the construction of irrigation channels and hydro-electric power plants, was launched here today by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP).

In most countries, Solution Exchange functions mainly by internet and email. However, in Afghanistan only 12 percent of households have access to a computer, and access is particularly limited in rural areas. But nearly three quarters of the population have leapfrogged technologies and use cell phones, making this the most widely available means of interactive communication.

So Solution Exchange Afghanistan will also offer services via cell phone. Mayors who need support with city planning, or municipal administrators seeking guidance on new irrigation methods need only pick up their cell phones and send an SMS for advice. Now solutions are only a text message away.

“Off-line” members will also be able to call a resource team who will share information and connect them with other experts by phone. Written messages will be distributed by e-mail, text messages, or fax, in English, Dari and Pashto.

The network is a UN-sponsored service that connects development professionals with similar interests, so that they can share their knowledge and experience and find practical solutions to development problems. The two such knowledge communities launched in Afghanistan today will help to:

* Manage the country’s land and water resources, forests and minerals for economic, social and environmental benefits.

* Deliver efficient and responsive municipal services, such as education, road repairs and maintenance, water and sanitation. The network helps people learn what has worked elsewhere in
Afghanistan when they are planning how to set up public services in their communities or manage natural resources.
“It connects people with common interests to share their experience, free of charge, and prevents them from having to re-invent the wheel. We hope this can make an important contribution to economic
development in Afghanistan,” said Alvaro Rodriguez, UNDP Country Director in Afghanistan.

A key goal of the network is to leverage and expand Afghanistan’s existing pool of expert knowledge in these two areas. Other communities dealing with new topics may be introduced at a later stage.

Members of the communities include people with a wide range of backgrounds and professions, such as mayors and other government officials, civil society representatives, politicians and
professionals working on resource management and delivery of municipal services. National and international academics, staff of research and policy institutes, legal practitioners, media, as well as members of international organizations and development agencies are also encouraged to join.

Solution Exchange was first introduced in India in 2005 and now has 15 active communities in Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, and the Pacific region, as well as a variation of the concept in Russia. The network has also been active in Cambodia, Indonesia, Philippines and Thailand. As of November last year, the network had helped more than 25,000 development professionals to handle 1,100 cases.

The Afghanistan Launch of Solution Exchange was led by the Director, Civil Affairs and Field Coordination, United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA), Mr. Peter Graaff..

By Voice of After The War