Economy, Sci & Tech

Iran Handicrafts to Get Internet Backing

The government-backed initiative seeks to empower the rural handicraft industry. (Photo: Farzad Menati)  The government-backed initiative seeks to empower the rural handicraft industry. (Photo: Farzad Menati)

The director of the vice presidency for Rural Development and Deprived Areas, Abolfazl Razavi, says the Rouhani Administration hopes to help people in rural areas to sell their products online through a new  unnamed online initiative.

Rural communities -- although producing some of the most sought-after handicrafts -- have historically got a raw deal when it comes to profit margins as  middlemen take the lion’s share with most hard working folks in villages barely aware of the true value of their handiwork in the marketplace, local technology news agency CITNA reported.

The new government initiative, although in the early stages, aims to connect the craftspeople with online stores through the use of 3G/4G Internet services; currently being rolled out by the two largest mobile network operators MTN-Irancell and MCI.

Over the past few years, several Iranian startups began offering online marketplaces to independent producers to help them list their works for urban buyers. However, due to the so-called ‘digital divide’ which creates a gulf between urbanized  digitally-connected populations and those in rural and poorer areas, many producing  handicrafts have been unable to access  private websites due to a lack of computer literacy and poor connectivity in remote areas.

 Lifting Living Standards

If successful the new plan will enable the villagers in the deprived areas earn additional income through digital sales and reach a wider range of audiences, thus improve living standards in the deprived regions.

Similar schemes have been introduced in other countries including western nations where the advent of super-fast Internet has passed many rural areas by.

Several initiatives in countries like in India, Laos and Nepal over the past decade sought to enable handicraft makers to sell directly to the buyer and had resounding success.

“People understand that what they’re giving is not just a beautiful gift. What it represents is real empowerment, economically and socially, for people around the world, in particular women,” says Becca Stamp, the marketing communications manager at Ten Thousand Villages, a charity looking to empower villages across the globe and sell their items to international marketplaces through an online platform, the Washington Diplomat reported on March 1.

Ten Thousand Villages has impacted the lives of 20,000 handicraft makers around the world and generated $140 million in sustainable income for them since its founding in 1946.

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