Last week, the Scientific and Technical Research Council of Turkey, or TÜBİTAK, was in the technology pages because of how well Turkey is doing in research and development. I was very happy to read that Hürriyet Daily News & Economic Review did not lose its critical stance by not clapping about all the information that was fed by TÜBİTAK, but did many international comparisons and concluded that “years of economic negligence in Turkey have created a gap that is not likely to be easily bridged.”
There cannot be a better sentence to be used while describing technology, innovation and R&D efforts in Turkey. It is not limited to a specific industry. There is clearly a lack of sound investment in technology throughout all the industries, even in those that are directly related, such as telecommunications.
Right after 3G, or third-generation technology, was introduced to the market, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and the Transportation Minister Binali Yıldırım were talking about how advanced our technology is and how well we are doing in telecommunications. I had asked the reason why we were so happy about ourselves, adding that we were being too joyful about a dead-end technological investment of $5 billion. It seemed logical to spend it on R&D and 4G that is quickly spreading in the developed world.
However, I was wrong. I should have said that we should spend this money on the current infrastructure first.
Yesterday many people in the catastrophe region could not talk on their cell phones because Vodafone’s data center in Istanbul’s İkitelli district was shut down due to heavy rain and floods. This means that many people who were in dire need of contacting an authority could not do so. Maybe there will be lives lost because of this failure. Those people bought their mobile phones, watching the advertisements and were led to believe that they could communicate from anywhere under all conditions. However, when they needed it the most they lost communication altogether. Ironic, isn’t it?
It seems that before 3G, it would have been wise to build back-up systems.
Since 2000, the Economist Intelligence Unit has assessed the world’s largest economies on their ability to absorb information and communications technology, or ICT, and use it for economic and social benefit. Seventy countries are covered in the annual e-readiness rankings.
Denmark has reclaimed the world’s e-readiness leadership in 2009, a position it relinquished to the United States last year. Other northern European countries such as Sweden (second), the Netherlands (third) and Norway (fourth) – having, among other attributes, high levels of ICT usage – have reaffirmed their places among the top 10 e-ready countries or, in the case of Norway, have advanced into this tier. Meanwhile, the United States (fifth) and the United Kingdom (13th), whose business environments have been hit particularly hard in the past year, have retreated a bit.
Turkey is ranked 43rd, just like last year.
Turkey’s grade is 5.34 out of 10. Its scores are: connectivity 4.85, business environment 5.94, social and cultural environment 5.93, legal environment 5.45, government policy and vision 5.35, and consumer and business adoption 4.98.
According to the survey, not only the developed countries but also the governments of Latvia, South Africa, Malaysia, Hungary, Bulgaria and even Trinidad and Tobago have higher grades in policy and vision along with the most of the other 70 countries in comparison.
Are we spending our money on a world-class vision? Or is our vision worse than that of Trinidad and Tobago because we are spending $5 billion on 3G, yet many of our citizens cannot communicate when there is a dire need to do so, not because of a catastrophe, but because there is not a back-up system?
Heavy rains washed away all the superficial air of greatness from the telecommunications industry. Hopefully in the coming days the industry can act on better vision.