A Shot in the Arm for Rural Communications in Iran
EghtesadOnline: In line with the government's efforts to upgrade ICT infrastructure in underdeveloped parts of the country, President Hassan Rouhani inaugurated numerous projects via video conference on Monday.
During an event held in Tehran, the president announced that over 1,000 deprived villages in Sistan-Baluchestan, Kerman, Fars and West Azarbaijan provinces now have access to mobile communications and are also linked to the National Information Network, President.ir reported.
The president also inaugurated a project based on which 1,700 villages got connected to the National Information Network.
NIN is an independent network whose content is compatible with Islamic values, one of the most important components of which is the availability of localized services, Financial Tribune reported.
According to the media, 236 villages in Fars and 323 in Lorestan have been newly connected to NIN. In addition, 609 rural areas in Fars now also enjoy mobile communication coverage.
Experts believe that the new achievement will boost the development of ICT services in the province.
Speaking on the occasion, Rouhani emphasized the necessity of providing rural areas with basic facilities.
"In terms of convenience of life, all the efforts are going into filling the gap between the city and rural life. Villages and metropolises should be developed in tandem; so extensive work has been and will be on track to provide villagers with freshwater, energy, health and communication services," he said.
Rouhani stressed that promoting the quality of life in rural areas will help curb migration to cities.
Speaking on the sidelines of the event, ICT Minister Mohammad Javad Azari Jahromi said good quality communication services can provide the required infrastructures for the introduction of new services.
"Development in this field can enhance growth in other areas," he said.
Jahromi said when President Rouhani took office during his first term in 2013, only 4,500 villages in the country had mobile network coverage, which figure has presently reached 34,000.
"I am proud to announce that nearly 31,000 villages in the country, accounting for 78% of the total, are connected to the National Information Network," he said.
The ICT minister noted that more efficient health care services can be offered to villagers through medical centers that are connected to the electronic health system.
Jahromi said there are collectively 17,492 clinics in rural areas nationwide, which will be able to offer decent health services to the public through the newly developed Electronic Health Record.
EHR is a joint project implemented by the ICT Ministry and Iran's Social Security Organization to digitize health services. It is a real-time, patient-centered digital record that makes information available instantly and securely to authorized users.
Latest reports say the project is almost complete and will become operational as soon as some security concerns are addressed.
Health Minister Saeid Namaki earlier told the media that when the project comes on stream, people can access their personal EHR through a smartphone application or a website using their national ID number.
EHR is based on a digital health database recently unveiled by SSO and will include the health records of about 70 million people.
The system is generally designed to ease access to healthcare services and curb the bureaucracy involved.
Underlining the benefits of connecting rural areas to NIN, Jahromi pointed to the fact that it can help upgrade schools, including less-developed and even tent schools, by using modern technologies to extend more efficient educational services. "So far, 19,250 schools have been connected to NIN."
The focus on upgrading schools was sharpened since an agreement was signed between the ICT and education ministries in mid-July to promote smart technologies in schools across the country.
Since then, schools already benefiting from smart facilities were ranked and organized. Also, equipment in semi-smart educational centers were upgraded.
Of the total 108,000 schools in the country, 77,000 are connected to NIN and use electronic systems.
However, more work is to be done, as the caretaker of Education Ministry, Seyyed Javad Hosseini, said only 23,000 schools in Iran offer technological education services and can be called smart schools.
“To increase the number of smart schools in the country, educational experts have prepared 12,000 digital educational contents, including multimedia courses and educational videogames, which will be included in the curriculum as of the next academic year,” he told IRNA.
Ideally, a fully smart school is equipped with smartboards, high-speed Internet coverage, laptops for all the students, video projectors, etc.
Smart schools are expected to offer all the services, including the process of enrolling students, teaching and conducting tests, on a digital platform.