EghtesadOnline: The necessity of age-appropriate educational content for children on the Internet was brought to the fore by Iran’s ICT minister, as one of the issues less explored in the country, so as to highlight the need for producing and circulating such content.
During Mohammad Javad Azari-Jahromi’s visit to the Sharif University of Technology last Tuesday, he inaugurated four projects specifically centered on children, reported the Science Ministry’s official website.
Head of the university’s biomedical engineering faculty, Mohammad Taqi Ahmadian introduced the projects, starting with a national scheme to establish virtual schools for teaching children to code.
Virtual Coding Schools
Utilizing a locally developed step-by-step guide in Persian, named Simorq (a mythical bird in Iranian mythology), kids can learn their first programming skills, Financial Tribune reported.
Head of the Simorq project Amir Hossein Assadi says, “Simorq is a modular programming platform similar to Scratch which helps young people learn to code.”
Scratch is a visual programming language and online community targeted primarily at children developed by the Lifelong Kindergarten Group at the MIT Media Lab.
The preparations for the scheme started two years ago. Youngsters are to do pair programming in beginner, intermediate and advanced levels.
The ICT Ministry has announced that they are ready to cover the costs of a virtual coding school for children.
IoT on the Agenda
The second scheme revolves around teaching Internet of Things (IoT) to kids. Children will be acquainted with the concepts and learn ways to apply the theories to the real world. Those interested can visit the link roshaac.ir to register and educate themselves about the programs.
IoT applications allow users to monitor and control everything from fridges to citywide metro systems by connecting remote sensors with computers, mobile phones and smartwatches.
Azari-Jahromi has pushed for a clear roadmap for the transformation of Tehran into a smart city. He has proposed that municipalities collaborate with each other in the development of smart cities to help curb unemployment and solve issues such as suffocating air pollution and nerve-racking traffic congestions.
Kid-Friendly Online Content
The third project is in the form of an event dedicated to the production of digital kid-friendly content by employing school students.
Through the project and during startup weekends, children will be taught how to develop their ideas and form teams as well as how to fire up a creative mindset.
Students can visit the website start.roshaac.ir to participate in the event.
The last project is a digital accelerator labeled “Sina”, founded with the aim of bringing together experts in various fields to create kid-friendly content and flesh out a digital ecosystem for children.
Entrepreneurs can visit the link sinada.ir to sign up to the project.
Azari-Jahromi pointed to failed micro-management policies imposed by previous officials as deplorable. Exemplifying the policies, he mentioned the wrong-headed rule introduced in 2014 that prohibited children under the age of 18 to purchase SIM cards. The rule has been scrapped.
The young minister did not belittle the considerable efforts made in the field, one instance being the “Kids and Internet” project designed and developed by Iran Information Technology Organization (ITO), which won a prize at the World Summit on the Information Society Forum 2018.
Surrounded by science aficionados and professors, Azari-Jahromi outlined the growing role of technology in today’s life. Pointing to its unstoppable force, he added, “There are those who still believe they can stave off modern lifestyle [and the changes it brings] by imposing draconian laws.”
Azari-Jahromi is of the opinion that those in corridors of power should embrace the changes that technological advances entail.
He says, “The time for punitive measures in regard to technology has come to an end. Expansion of technology is irreversible.”
The minister pointed to three elements vital to the growth of technology, namely IoT, artificial intelligence and cloud computing.
Azari-Jahromi says they have started collaborations with the University of Tehran to prepare a comprehensive map of digital transformation across the country.
“We expect the Sharif University of Technology to become the hub for one of the three aforementioned elements,” he stressed.
On the sidelines of Azari-Jahromi’s visit to the Sharif University of Technology, Iran’s largest mobile phone network Mobile Communications Company of Iran (MCI) signed a memorandum of understanding with Sharif University to develop mutual cooperation and support in conducting research projects in the ICT sector.
Hamidreza Nikoufar, a top official with the MCI, said the company has been collaborating with the university for eight years now, dedicating a segment of company resources to academic endeavors.
The agreement is a follow-up on a deal signed last year between the two sides in regard to new communications technologies, reported MCI’s website.
The new agreement aims to provide grants to researchers to stimulate innovative research in areas of information technology, support knowledge-based companies, utilize university assets for counseling and establish a venture capital fund to contribute to technological schemes.