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EghtesadOnline: Iran’s ICT Ministry unveiled its long-awaited User Data Protection Bill during the 24th round of Electronic, Computer and E-Commerce Exhibition (Elecomp 2018) to assuage user concerns over their shrinking privacy in the cyber era.

On the first day of the four-day Elecomp 2018 held at Tehran International Fairground on July 28, ICT Minister Mohammad Javad Azari-Jahromi released the bill in detail that he hopes will win public trust and further their engagement with domestic startups, especially locally developed social media platforms.

Organized by the ICT Guild Organization, Elecomp provides firms active in information and communications technologies sector to feature their latest services and products and establish networks that can especially assist newcomers in their endeavors to find a niche in the country’s robust technology and startup arena.

The bill was signed by the minister and the head of Parliament Research Center Kazem Jalali on Saturday afternoon. According to Azari-Jahromi, this is Iran’s first attempt at regulating cyberspace. Later in the day, the bill was uploaded on the ICT Ministry’s website and can be accessed by the public. According to Azari-Jahromi, the bill is still open to revision, Financial Tribune reported.

The official says the outlines of four more bills on the regulation of the cyberspace are currently being drafted.

Given the government’s agenda to move Iran away from oil earnings toward a knowledge-based economy, introduction of new regulations in regard to cyberspace is expected to gain momentum in the coming years.

Earlier in May and after the European Union introduced the General Data Protection Regulation, through his personal twitter account, Azari-Jahromi hailed the move and declared that Iran is soon to follow suit.

Unveiling the bill, he said, “Introduction of regulatory measures to protect users’ data is becoming widespread across the continents,” once again professing his commitment to push for implementation of similar safeguards in Iran.

 Fast-Growing Startups

During recent years, Iran has observed a significant startup boom both in terms of numbers and quality of the services offered by such firms.

At the opening ceremony of Elecomp 2018, head of the ICT Guild Mohammad Baqer Asna-Ashari pointed to the startups’ increasing participation in the event.

Asna-Ashari drew a comparison between the areas occupied by startups in the Elecomp over the past two years, revealing a 100% hike in the space taken up by local startups.

Moreover, 60% of the startups which in the previous round had merely requested a counter to introduce their company to visitors have this year asked for 12-square-meter booths, which has raised the collective space occupied by startups from 3,300 square meters to 6,600, indicating a flourishing business climate and such firms’ openhanded spending.

Not all was rosy at the 2018 Elecomp, as importers and broadband service providers did not participate in the event citing Iran’s current stark economic prospects which have them question whether they would be able to weather the hard times that are set to hit the country in the coming days. During the past five months and after US President Donald Trump pulled the country out of the historic Iran nuclear deal, the value of the rial has plummeted wiping out the purchasing power of Iranians and putting the damper on dozens of businesses.

In the face of bleak prospects, the ICT minister tried to brighten up the atmosphere in his opening speech by reassuring participants that the future belongs to the ICT sector.

He said, “The ICT sector absorbs investments from other fields, and investors see tapping technology businesses as their future. One way or another, the technology sector will prevail.”

Azari-Jahromi’s encouraging comments, however, did little to soothe bewildered businesses and citizens who have seen their fortunes melt way in the past few months with the rial plunging to unprecedented lows. The value of the national currency has sunk dramatically—on Sunday the US dollar changed hands for over 100,000 rials in Tehran’s gray market.

 Unwavering Policies

The highlight of the opening ceremony was when the ICT Minister outlined his strategies for the future of the information technology in the country.

Azari-Jahromi is of the opinion that the solution to the country’s troubles lies in the hands of the ICT sector, as evidenced in the minister’s recent joint action plans with other state bodies to integrate information technology with other sectors as a means to enhance efficiency.

He has recently signed deals with agriculture and energy ministers to pool resources in a bid to employ modern technologies to address the problems facing other sectors, create employment opportunities and save the natural resources of the country from depletion.

Azari-Jahromi estimates that his agreement with the Energy Ministry will help generate 100,000 employment opportunities in the form of 20,000 startups. He added that “another joint plan is in final phases and will be signed between the ICT Ministry and the Health Ministry in the coming days.”

One of the showrooms of the exhibition was jam-packed with government bodies introducing the electronic services they plan to offer to the public.


 Event’s Sections  

This round of the expo has been debuted with a flashy slogan, “On March Toward Digital Economy.” The exhibition is hosting 320 companies active in the ICT sector, 430 startups and some 45 game and app developers.

This year’s Elecomp includes four main segments, providing a chance to all firms active in the ICT sector to promote their work.

The majority of the ongoing event is dedicated to Elecomp Stars, where startups present their ideas to visitors, investors, accelerators and venture capitalists and compete during the Elecomp Stage to be recognized as the leading firm on a national scale and win prizes that can assist their rise to positions of economic success.

Game developers have taken up 600-square-meters of space to promote local products in a section titled Elecomp Games. Domestic games have drawn growing interest as evident by a recent national survey conducted by the Digital Games Research Center. According to the research, the sixth and tenth most popular games across the country are locally developed, namely the word game Baghlava and the trivia quiz game Quiz of Kings.

Elecomp Trends will devote time to institutions active in the specialized fields of artificial intelligence, blockchain, Internet of Things, big data and cloud services. Firms active in such sectors can offer products and let participants track their progress.

This year the Elecomp Talks has assumed a more personal approach to business debates, relocated from conference rooms to showrooms to allow closer encounters between young entrepreneurs and pundits including university professors, private investors, company managers and government officials.

The event will conclude on Tuesday.


Iran ICT Ministry Elecomp 2018 User Data Protection Bill