A New Way Forward, a New Way to Communicate

On Tuesday, President Obama outlined his strategy on Afghanistan and Pakistan. While his speech was delivered at the U.S. Military Academy in West Point, NY, part of his speech was directed to the Afghan people. Specifically:

The people of Afghanistan have endured violence for decades. They've been confronted with occupation -- by the Soviet Union, and then by foreign al Qaeda fighters who used Afghan land for their own purposes.  So tonight, I want the Afghan people to understand -- America seeks an end to this era of war and suffering.  We have no interest in occupying your country.  We will support efforts by the Afghan government to open the door to those Taliban who abandon violence and respect the human rights of their fellow citizens.  And we will seek a partnership with Afghanistan grounded in mutual respect -- to isolate those who destroy; to strengthen those who build; to hasten the day when our troops will leave; and to forge a lasting friendship in which America is your partner, and never your patron.

Looking at data on Whitehouse.gov, we don’t have a lot of traffic coming from Afghanistan and Pakistan because Internet penetration in the region is relatively low at 2% and 11% respectively. However, mobile penetration is much higher. 52% of the 177 million people in Pakistan have at least 1 mobile device and 30% of the 28.4 million in Afghanistan.  Given this trend, we produced short video clips of the President’s segment to Afghans and had it dubbed in Arabic, Dari, Pashto, and Urdu in order for them to be distributed locally on mobile devices. Given the small screens on phones, subtitling wasn’t an appropriate option. The original version in English is also available.

This is a new feature for both the White House and State Department New Media teams. We’re hopeful that leveraging technology this way will help us achieve the President's goal of increasing America's security and undercutting the appeal of Al Qaeda and other extremists through global engagement.

UPDATE: Click here to access President Obama or Secretary State Clinton's messages via mobile phone.

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