In this Internet Monitor research bulletin, Berkman Klein Center Affiliate Simin Kargar analyzes the effectiveness of the Iranian government’s campaign to encourage domestic content consumption and hosting through its National Information Network.
With over $6 billion invested, the NIN is the most costly national telecommunications project in the history of the Islamic Republic. Other affiliated costs align well with the NIN’s overarching goals: $1.5 billion on a domestic search engines project and $135,000 in additional subsidies to go toward mature development of domestic messaging applications. This strategy is to substantially cut reliance on international applications such as Telegram.
The recent events in Iran put the investment to the test and underscored the challenges of fundamentally changing user behavior. While an increase in speed allows for services that potentially improve access and more sophisticated information sharing, these benefits only apply to domestically hosted platforms that have not been popular. As the recent protests affirmed, when popular international tools became inaccessible, users showed little interest to limit their traffic to domestic websites and tools, even at a discounted price. Despite Iran’s concerted efforts to popularize the NIN’s application, appealing to users and acquiring their trust may be much harder than the government had envisioned.