EghtesadOnline: Tech park ‘Digital Economic Development’ was launched in the shrine city of Mashhad on Monday by the ICT minister.
During the inauguration ceremony Mohammad Javad Azari Jahromi said, “The tech park can host 120 startups and knowledge-based companies,” ict.gov.ir reported.
A similar project is underway in Tehran. “Another tech park, which is also named Digital Economic Development, is being built in Tehran which can provide 150 startups and technology companies with working space and support,” Jahromi said.
“Venture capital funds would also to be established in the parks that will help fund startups.” A percentage of ICT Ministry income will also be invested in startups in the parks, according to Financial Tribune.
In addition to providing companies with working space and financial support, the firm will also be eligible for assistance in the form of mentorship courses and legal counseling.
Another center ‘Green Tech’ was also launched in Mashhad on Monday. As per an agreement signed between Iran IT Organization and the Vice Presidential Office for Science and Technology, Green Tech will also support Mashhad-based startup accelerators.
Head of IT Organization Amir Nazemi said through Green Tech local startups accelerators will beget financial and investment backing.
Over 50 tech parks have been established in Iran by the government, higher education centers and the private sector, which according to official data host an estimated 5,000 startups and knowledge-based firms.
Oil Money, Sustainable Development
Independent observers often censure officialdom for their overdependence on oil export revenue saying that curbing reliance on the black gold and embracing a technology-based competitive ieconomy is pivotal to sustainable development.
Since President Hassan Rouhani took office first in 2013, his administration has promoted application of modern technologies and is striving to curb reliance on natural resources’ export plus focus on the production and export of value-added production.
Taking stock of the economy’s overreliance on oil, the ICT minister said, “For years, Iran’s economy depended on the export of natural resources like oil and [the government] used oil income to offer services to the people and build infrastructure. But the services have never been of decent quality.”
Azari Jahromi opined that the systemic government intervention and overreliance on oil have led to mismanagement and misappropriation of funds. In recent years a variety of business models based on ICT have emerged and have moving forward, albeit slowly.
While business observers welcome Jahromi’s support for startups and emerging firms, many also monitor his performance and that of his ministry at close range. They have often cautioned that government intervention, however with good intentions and aimed at boosting businesses, impede progress of the struggling private sector.
To address such concerns, Jahromi said the government’s main responsibility is to build infrastructure, reduce the bloated bureaucracy and pave the way for private investment.
In the past decade, Iran’s communication infrastructure has grown significantly. Jahromi said, “Over the past five years, some 250 trillion rials ($2.17 billion) has been invested on [ICT] infrastructure development plans.”
The investment is largely in the communications sector. According to official data, local operators offer 3G and 4G mobile services in all cities and 66% of the rural areas.
Close to 91.8 million mobile subscriptions have been registered in Iran, and 82.6% of roads have cellphone coverage, Iran’s Communication Regulatory Authority says on its website.
The CRA further adds that 71 million people have access to the Internet. In the country of 81 million people, this means 86.8% Internet penetration rate.
The minister further pointed to the exponential growth of local startups, saying that in the past five years the number of locally-developed apps, through which various services are offered, has reached 250,000 from 450 mobile applications.
From hailing a cab to ordering food and getting home appliances repaired or taking online courses, in every field there are a dozen startups, apps, and online platforms.