Through this information and communication technology (ICT) media development project, Afghanistan's 33 independent local radio stations are offered an online presence through the interactive Afghan Radio Connect web platform. Since 2003, Internews and Nai have built 30 of these radio stations and have jointly trained their staff. In January 2007, they began using the internet to connect the local network of local independent stations in Afghanistan and to support them in achieving financial independence.
To begin, organisers trained the staff of the stations in the use of an internet content management system, helped them build their websites, and supported them in developing an e-commerce platform which allows people around the world to pay for personal announcements to be broadcast on the stations (as well as to give donations). Nai also provides ongoing support, as needed, with individual radio stations' regular website updates. (The country has been subdivided in 7 areas, in which each of the radio stations can contact a "base station" which has access to the internet and help them update their website.)
The Afghan Radio Connect website aims to be the first stop on the way to the 33 Afghan local radio stations' websites. On the home page, an interactive map is designed to enable people to quickly locate where each radio station operates and read the latest local news that has been published on each partner radio station's website. Organisers hope that, after having spent some time on Afghan Radio Connect, people will click directly to go to (and bookmark) the websites of the radio stations of interest. An RSS feed was set up to ensure that people can stay in touch with the latest local news from the Afghan Radio Connect; an e-newsletter is also offered.
Each radio's website facilitates direct access (where available) to the personal announcement service. For a small fee, anyone around the world can have a message read by a speaker on the chosen radio station's airwaves. "By using this service you also support the radio sector in Afghanistan, and help the radio stations to inform their communities." When an announcement request is submitted, the platform automatically alerts the radio station's staff by email. If the staff do not have easy access to the internet, Nai or the base station in their area will alert them. Once the message is broadcast, the radio station's staff then send a confirmation email to the customer and validate that the message has been broadcast. Nai's staff also monitor the programmes on which the messages will be broadcast to ensure that the messages have been aired. Payment for the messages is facilitated through Paypal or a PIN number. Internews Europe, Nai, and the radio stations have access to a complete record of the transactions made on the platform and also receive the bank statements of the Afghan Radio Connect bank account to ensure the complete transparency of the process.
Translators, web developers, online marketers, and Afghan diaspora associations are also urged to contribute their skills to the project.