KABUL, Afghanistan — "Planting its flag in cyberspace," Afghanistan will officially activate its ".af" Internet domain name today for Afghan e-mail addresses and Web sites, Afghan officials and the United Nations said.
The effort, a collaboration between the U.N. Development Program and the Afghan Ministry of Communications, marks a giant technological leap for a country where the Internet was banned for years.
But it is likely to be a long time before the average, impoverished Afghan citizen will be able to afford to explore the new possibilities.
"Equivalent to a country code for telephone numbers, the '.af' Internet suffix has now been reserved exclusively for private and official e-mail and World Wide Web users in Afghanistan," the U.N. said in a statement.
"Afghanistan is officially planting its flag in cyberspace, gaining full legal and technical control of the '.af' Internet domain," the organization said.
The ".af" domain was first registered with the Internet Assigned Numbers Authority in October 1997 by a private Afghan citizen named Abdul Razeeq, according to Aimal Marjan, an advisor to the minister of communications.
According to the IANA Web site, Razeeq later disappeared and some services were halted to the ".af" domain.
Efforts to relaunch it began again after the Taliban regime's ouster in 2001.