TEHRAN, 17 Aug 2004 (IRIN) - A rural IT project has been launched in Iran as part of a joint effort by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and the government of Iran.
The centre, which is the first of 100 planned centres, has been set up in a school in Maranak, a small village in the foothills of the Damavand mountain range in northern Iran. The project includes classes on IT programmes, such as learning to use the Internet and the use of IT facilities.
The classes are open to different age groups, from children in elementary class to adolescents. Demand for the new scheme has been high with 300 people registering so far. Reflecting the country's trend of a higher number of women in education, twice as many girls have signed up than boys.
It is hoped the project will replicate an IT centre which has been commissioned in the village of Tees, in the southeastern province of Sistan-Baluchestan. The centre in Tees is a community-based development project that uses micro-credit techniques to achieve socio-economic goals.
"This would support the development of information linkages with other communities and micro-credit institutions. It will also enhance the effectiveness and efficiency of micro-credit based employment generation and poverty reduction, by combining them with information technology services support," Tooraj Akbarlou, UNDP spokesperson, told IRIN in the Iranian capital, Tehran.
The IT centres are also seen as a means of improving local governance, promoting transparency and encouraging local participation by giving local communities access to information on public services, regulations and policies and acting as a feedback forum. The latest information on relevant local rural issues, such as market prices for agricultural goods and medical information, will also be available to local families.
"This initiative can help create self-reliance in communities, and can ultimately support poverty alleviation programmes in the country," said UNDP Resident Representative Frederick Lyons. "It also shows that tiny investments can leverage larger effects to improve the life of communities," he added.
The project aims to contribute to sustainable human development efforts in the country by building institutional capacity for development through information technology in selected rural and urban areas. Implemented by Iran's Management and Planning Organization (MPO), it will also play an active part in providing input and make recommendations for the national IT plan. Iran's ambitious national IT plan promotes the use of IT as an effective means to enable sustainable human development and reduce the inequality gap between developed and underdeveloped regions. It also seeks to reduce the divide between rural and urban areas, men and women, and rich and poor.
Iran's MPO announced that the government, with help from UNDP, plans to open another 100 rural IT centres across the country by next year. It is hoped the centres will not only teach IT skills, but will also provide essential information tailored to rural needs, including local information and news, employment, social services, health, environmental and food, issues and advice on legal rights and local laws.
"The project is also unique in a sense that it demonstrates a spirit of multilateral participatory collaboration between central and provincial authorities and local communities in all phases of project implementation, commissioning and operation," said Dr Seddigh, head of the MPO's research bureau.
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