Economy should go digital: Iran ICT minister

(IRNA) - Minister of Information and Communications Technology (ICT) Mohammad Soleimani said here on Sunday that Iran has a long way to go to reach international standards in terms of e-commerce and electronic banking.

The minister further said at the First Meeting of ICT Managers that the country needs to move toward the digital economy, stressing that greater infrastructural work has to be done to achieve this goal, reported the English-language newspaper Iran Daily. He said one of the gravest challenges facing the communications sector is the weaknesses in implementing developmental projects, reports Trend.

"The country is still weak in terms of electronic industry," he said, adding that the government is determined to boost private sector involvement in the sector.

He noted that protecting private sector is one of the fundamental slogans of the Ninth Government.

The Ahmadinejad administration will provide private enterprises with extra financial facilities, and the ICT Ministry-affiliated companies will also be privatized as per the recent privatization directive, the minister noted.

He said the ministry is planning to turn Iran into the regional telecoms hub, stressing that the government has prohibited overspending in developmental projects.

"We can live a simple life and still move the development work forward," he said.

Abdolmajid Riyazi, secretary of the High Council for Information Technology, also said at the meeting that some 30 percent of population will have access to the Internet by the closing year of Fourth Plan (2005-2010).

"Some 20.5 million people will have access to the net by 2010," he said, adding that high-speed Internet users will also reach a million people by the target year.

He said the national Internet is now being tested on a trial basis, adding that once operational, the groundbreaking project will provide Internet services with an average speed of two megabytes per second.

"The national Internet will connect rural networks to those in urban areas," he said, adding that some 18 specialized working groups are involved in the project.

He said sustainable development in the ICT sector would require 5,000 new technicians, 4,000 experts, 1,000 senior experts and 100 PhDs over the next few years.

The official said the council has given top priority to connecting 8,500 schools to the Internet.

Majlis Speaker Gholam-Ali Haddad-Adel also said at the gathering that the ICT sector contracts need to be supervised more thoroughly, adding that the national interests should be fully observed in signing ICT agreements.

He said the sector can create so many jobs as it deals with major sectors of the national economy.

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