As conditions in Afghanistan continue to deteriorate and the Taliban gain control of its major cities, it’s been a challenge for its citizens to get accurate information about what’s happening from moment to moment. Rest of World tells the story of Kabul-based startup Ehtesab, which relies on crowdsourced reports from vetted users to track everything from electricity outages to bombings to traffic jams, and feeds the information to its app, which then sends out push notifications.
Ehtesab means “accountability” in Dari and Pashto, and the app, formally launched in March 2020, offers streamlined security-related information, including general security updates in Kabul to its users. With real-time, crowdsourced alerts, users across the city can track bomb blasts, roadblocks, electricity outages, or other problems in locations close to them. The app, which generates push notifications about nearby security risks, is supported by 20 employees working out of the company’s Kabul office, according to [founder Sara] Wahedi.
Wahedi and her staff are currently working remotely for their safety — she tells Rest of World even they were surprised by how quickly the Afghan government collapsed — and Ehtesab avoids mentioning the Taliban in its security updates, providing information in a “discreet” way:
For instance, a roadblock may indicate that there might be danger, but of course we can’t directly say that there is danger. If we are accused of constructing a narrative against the government, then we can assert that we provided information about a roadblock and nothing else, since it affects people’s movement. That is the strategy we are adopting.
It has become more and more difficult to get information in and out of Kabul in recent days, but Wahedi said she felt a responsibility to Afghanistan’s younger generation, who “have grown up in war.” Silence, Wahedi says, “gives the Taliban an upper hand.”
Go read this story about what it’s like collecting and disseminating crucial information amidst the chaos in Afghanistan.