Iran the ‘Most Dynamic’ Asian Nation in ICT Sector

The latest data on ICT development from International Telecommunication Union shows continued progress in connectivity and use of information and communications technologies in Iran.
The report names Iran “the most dynamic country” in terms of ICT Development Index (IDI) value in Asia. Iran’s 0.54-point improvement from 5.04 to 5.58 points (out of 10) has enabled a rise of four positions in the global ranking. According to IDI 2017 report published on ITU’s official website, Iran ranks 81 globally and 12th in Asia.
Furthermore, the report indicates that on the global level the most substantial improvements in IDI value were in Namibia, Iran, and Gabon.
Based on data from the end of 2016, the IDI report ranks the performance of 176 economies with regard to ICT infrastructure, use and skills based on internationally comparable data and agreed methodologies between the member states of ITU.
Some of the indicators included in the IDI are relative numbers of fixed and mobile telephone subscriptions, households with a computer and Internet access, average Internet bandwidth per Internet user, the percentage of individuals using the Internet, relative number of fixed-broadband and mobile-broadband Internet subscriptions along mean years of schooling which include courses in ICT skills.
According to the report, Iran has shown significant improvement in every aspect of ICT development index with a particularly high rate of improvement (68.7%) in the number of mobile-broadband subscriptions per 100 people, as well as notable improvement in Internet users and households with Internet access.
Furthermore, citizens’ access to ICT technology in Iran has been improved by more than twice the average global increase. The average global increase was 0.20, while the access index in Iran was up 0.41 points, reaching 6.74 (out of 10).
Iran saw improvement in all access indicators. The rankings of most economies in the access index have changed little over the year, with Iran showing the highest gain (up 9 places). Iran’s Access Rank is 67.
Global, Local Trends
During the past decade in Iran, there has been a sustained growth in the availability of communications, especially in urban areas, led by growth in mobile communications and, more recently, by the introduction of third and fourth generation of mobile telecommunication technologies (3G and 4G).
Similarly, there has been rapid growth in mobile-broadband services globally. The number of mobile-broadband subscriptions worldwide now exceeds 50 per 100 inhabitants, enabling improved access to the Internet and online services.
According to ITU, 33.8% of Iranians had access to such services by the end of 2016.
Furthermore, mobile-cellular networks are increasingly pervasive and now dominate the provision of basic telecommunication services in Iran and most other countries.
The number of mobile-cellular subscriptions worldwide now exceeds the global population although many individuals, especially in developing countries, still do not use a mobile phone.
The number of fixed-telephone subscriptions has continued to fall dropping below 1 billion worldwide and is particularly low in the least developed countries. The number of mobile phone subscriptions exceeds the population in Iran as well. The number of fixed-telephone subscriptions remained fixed in the country.
Digital Divide
There are substantial digital divides between countries and regions and between developed and developing countries. The same divide can be observed in urban and rural areas in Iran.
Citizens and experts in the country have often called on the government to address the digital divide between the more and less connected areas.
In September, a lawmaker in Tehran castigated the government and local operators for not paying enough attention to the underdeveloped telecom infrastructure in rural areas.
Ali Asadi Karam said, “Dozens of villages do not even have access to conventional telephone services” and also suffer from lack of Internet services.
The MP said the Telecommunication Company of Iran has been rather “discriminative” in providing telecom services in rural areas. “The company simply does not offer any services in several areas.”
It is said that low yields on infrastructure investments in the small rural areas are the main reason the TCI and other private companies are not interested in working in the remote regions.
However, if Iran aims to achieve sustainable growth, the government and operators should also strive to improve and expand ICT infrastructure in the faraway areas.