EghtesadOnline: Telecommunications Company of Iran, Iran's top fixed-line operator, announced that it has linked over 45,000 schools to the internet in the last 18 months.
TCI CEO Majid Soltani told ISNA that his organization was entrusted with connecting 81,591 schools to the National Information Network by the end of the Sixth Five-Year Development Plan (2017-22), which include 40,490 urban and 41,101 rural schools.
NIN is a local network described by Iranian authorities as an alternative, independent network with content compatible with Islamic values to facilitate Iranian users’ access to indigenous content and curb educational disparity.
“The project has proceeded by 64% so far and work is underway, despite the delay,” Soltani said.
TCI, he added, is required to upgrade the aging internet infrastructure of 33,307 schools, noting that the remaining 12,060 schools lacked equipment, such as modems and fixed-line telephony.
According to the official, the project for connecting all schools to the internet through NIN was launched in 2012 and so far, more than 1 trillion rials ($3.7 million) have been invested in it.
“In addition to TCI, other Iranian communication institutions have contributed to the initiative. With 150 billion rials [$555,000] allotted to the project in the 2021-22 budget bill, the Education Ministry is determined to connect all Iranian urban and rural schools to the internet by the end of the current year [March 2022].”
He quoted the former ICT minister, Mohammad Javad Azari Jahromi, as saying that the government has set a deadline of March 2022 to fully implement the project, but if the deadline falls short of funds, it should be financed through other resources.
“This might be the last time the government allocates a part of the budget resources to the project,” Soltani declared.
Timeline of Efforts
The ICT and education ministries launched an initiative in late 2019 to upgrade schools into smart educational centers.
The agreement between the two ministries includes various measures, such as connecting all schools to NIN and equipping them with modern tools needed by students and teachers.
In the first phase, the project envisaged the provision of high-speed internet connection for 76,400 schools around the country, comprising 38,333 urban and 38,067 rural schools. The project was financed under the Universal Service Obligation Plan, proposed by ICT Ministry, for providing broadband internet access to rural areas.
To realize the goals set by the project, domestic internet operators also joined hands.
Irancell company provided infrastructures for around 13,600 schools in rural areas, Mobile Telecommunications Company of Iran, also known as Hamrah-e Avval, equipped 4,482 schools with ICT requirements and the Telecommunications Company of Iran connected 19,949 schools to NIN.
TCI also connected 38,333 urban schools to the integrated network.
The aforementioned achievements in e-schooling could not be realized, if ICT infrastructures were not developed in rural areas.
The government has extensively invested in the development of ICT infrastructure in rural areas over the past few years, which have also boosted their quality of life.
Rural Communication Infrastructure
ICT authorities say more good news will be heard on the development of communication and internet infrastructure in rural areas by the end of the current fiscal year (March 2022).
In South Khorasan Province, efforts are underway to connect 21 villages in the coming months.
Mostafa Behi, the head of the provincial ICT organization, told reporters that four ICT stations have been set up in Boshrouyeh County to provide high-speed broadband internet for rural areas.
“The stations will become operational, as soon as they are equipped with the necessary gear,” he said.
Ladan Mahdavi, the head of ICT Organization in Markazi Province, said provincial officials say that since 2013, the number of villages with internet connections has tripled and reached 1,082, accounting for 93% of all villages in the province.
As planned, she added, more areas are on the connectivity list for the current fiscal year.
According to the Communications Regulatory Authority, the installation of 1,250 ATMs has facilitated micro banking services in rural areas.
These teller machines are expected to increase to 2,500 by the end of the current fiscal year.
CRA reported that by June 22, the number of registered broadband internet subscriptions reached 92.72 million, 82.33 million of which used mobile internet connections and 10.39 million were connected to landline internet.
The data show mobile internet service penetration rate has reached 98.01% and the penetration rate of landline internet was 12.38% by June.
The ICT Ministry plans to provide access to speedy connections to all villages with over 20 households.
Officials believe that increasing the access of users, corporations and organizations to the internet can increase economic productivity and promote social welfare. Internet access increases traditional business activities and interactions.
For instance, rural craftsmen and farmers in Iran are now able to conduct their businesses through online platforms, directly interact with customers and sideline middlemen.
As the promotion of ICT to build novel industries and businesses gains momentum, it will boost the livelihood of rural residents and energize the local economy.