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As many as 100,000 jobs have been created in cyberspace in recent years.
As many as 100,000 jobs have been created in cyberspace in recent years.

Bigger Role for Internet in Sustainable Rural Development

Since 2013, access to broadband Internet has been provided to over 25,000 villages, an auspicious move that laid the groundwork for enhancement in areas of electronic healthcare, tourism, creating jobs and boosting morale of people living far away from ma

Bigger Role for Internet in Sustainable Rural Development

One of the main priorities of the Rouhani  administration is to increase Internet access particularly in rural and remote regions by developing telecommunication infrastructure.
The ambitious goal has been almost fully achieved through the cooperation of the Vice Presidency for Science and Technology and the Telecoms Ministry.
Since 2013, access to broadband Internet has been provided to over 25,000 villages, an auspicious move that laid the groundwork for enhancement in areas of electronic healthcare, tourism, creating jobs and boosting morale of people living far away from major urban areas.
Extending Internet to these areas is also an attempt to stop or reverse the rural-urban migration, says the Telecoms Minister Mahmoud Vaezi.
“The government is trying to benefit from innovations in ICT and ICT-based businesses and help curb the influx to urban areas for jobs and urban facilities,” he said.
The number of villages with Internet connection has doubled in the past four years thanks to the fast roll out of ADSL and third and fourth generation Internet connections. The connectivity project is part of the national project under the Universal Service Obligation Plan, to give Internet access to rural communities.  
More than 33,000 out of the total 64,000 villages have been deserted due to different reasons including rampant unemployment and consecutive years of drought, lack of facilities and basic services including healthcare and sustainable livelihood.
“The role of IT in rural development is very significant,” says Khosro Saljouqi, board member at the Iran Information Technology Organization, as reported by Islamic Azad University news agency (ANA).
“Villagers are active in areas such as tourism, blacksmithing, carpentry, spinning, water resources, forestry, small industries (craftsmanship), and products with added value such as livestock farming, and these can be given a boost in the market by using services available on the Internet.”
However, proper use of the Internet and ICT in sustainable rural development demands training and time, he added.
Online services not only provide information and make communication instant, but also facilitate startups and online business.
Rural folks need information about their environment, rural government schemes, natural resources and weather reports as well as market rates of goods and commodities. They also need to know how much funds are allocated for rural development in their respective areas, what are the demands of the market and all important information related to their lives and livelihood, which can be acquired on the Internet.

  Case in Point
Shahkooh village in Semnan Province is one good example of IT. Access to high-speed Internet in this village boosted tourism and helped its proper introduction and promotion online.
“As a result of 5,000 added tourists per year its economy grew by 40% and social interaction by 60%,” said Saljouqi.
The global interaction and immediacy of the World Wide Web on top of fast connection, has also helped local communities to promote their businesses online and attract tourists, potential investors, the media and storytellers.
The Parhami Traditional House in Shiraz, Fars Province, is one of the attractions for tourists who were first introduced to it via the popular social medium Instagram. The rehabilitated old traditional house provides bed and breakfast for visitors.
The people of Shafiabad village in Kerman Province have also taken to online media to offer accommodation to thousands of visitors who travel to the province every year to see the world famous Loot Desert.  “As many as 100,000 jobs have been created in cyberspace in recent years,” said President Hassan Rouhani earlier this month. “Residents in rural areas export their products online and many tourists learn about Iranian villages in cyberspace.”
To further help people in rural areas to sell their products online, the government is currently devising a new, so-far unnamed, online initiative. Once implemented, it will enable villagers in the deprived areas earn additional income through digital sales and reach a wider audience, thus improving living standards.

  Training and Education Crucial
Reza Olfat Nasab, secretary of the Association of Online Business, believes that Internet service in rural and remote areas will reinvigorate their livelihood provided that they are trained and educated in how to use this service.
“These people have already mastered their crafts, and they want to offer their products. We have to teach them how,” he said.
In December, the Ministry of Health and the Telecoms Ministry signed a memorandum of understanding to promote e-healthcare services in rural regions.
The two ministries are trying to reduce the digital gap in infrastructure for e-services in remote or less developed areas. Based on an earlier agreement, the Telecoms Ministry is obliged to provide high-speed Internet in villages on priority to facilitate access to e-services provided by the Health Ministry.
According to head of the Communications Regulatory Authority, Ali Asghar Amidian, 153 billion rials ($4 million) was allocated for extending high-speed Internet coverage to rural and remote areas.

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