Turkey has invested heavily in technology over the past two decades. The number of internet users in Turkey has surged from just three percent in 2000 to 44% today, and 96% of the population now owns a mobile phone. The Turkish people are increasingly interconnected and technologically advanced, and it’s having a ripple effect across many aspects of life in the country – from education and infrastructure to business and research.
Over a quarter of Turkey’s population is under the age of 15, and the Turkish government has proactively engaged youth by creating opportunities for more technology education. For example, the Turkish Ministry of National Education implemented the FATIH Project in 2011 to provide training and infrastructure, and to ensure a generation of technologically literate children. Classrooms across Turkey have been equipped with state-of-the-art technology, and by the completion of the project in 2019, over 680,000 teachers from 42,000 schools across will have received training. Hundreds of thousands of new ‘Smart’ whiteboards, which are manufactured by a Turkish company, have also been installed to help make learning more interactive. In addition, the Turkish government has provided tablets to both teachers and students with educational software to help children gain greater technological literacy.
The FATIH Project, coupled with Turkey’s 77 universities and 90 public research institutes, ensures that Turkey’s youth get the technology and tools they need to succeed. This commitment to innovation in education has attracted global attention, including from Silicon Valley. Google, for example, has met with Turkish leaders to discuss ways to integrate their technology into the FATIH project. Microsoft has also collaborated with Turkish universities to develop new initiatives such as the Open Academy, which teaches IT skills to over 100,000 Turkish citizens, further expanding the reach of Turkey’s technological initiatives.
Turkey is also building infrastructure to support advanced technology careers and businesses. Istanbul’s Technopark is a central hub for collaborative research projects between industries and universities in sectors such as biotechnology, electronics and defense. The Turkish government has funded a series of these parks to foster technological innovation. American companies such as Pfizer have taken advantage of this technology infrastructure to set-up offices and expansive research hubs in Turkey.
Start-up businesses also reap the benefits of Turkey’s technological advancements. Internet start-ups can apply for grants from the Turkish government to get off the ground, and also receive investment from global firms. Companies such as Trendyol and Yemeksepeti are becoming major players in the Turkish internet market, and have attracted funding from American companies too. Turkish venture capital firms have also begun to invest heavily in startups, recognizing that the unique combination of Turkey’s young population and strategic location between the EU and Asia is ideal for financial growth and success.
To keep Turkey on the cutting edge, the Scientific and Technological Research Council (TÜBİTAK) has developed research initiatives aimed at finding solutions for the country’s energy, science and technology challenges. This year’s TÜBİTAK Supreme Council of Science and Technology conference was focused on developing new technologies for clean energy production. Over the next decade, TÜBİTAK will invest nearly $50 million into energy research to help build Turkey’s renewable energy sector. In addition, Turkey has collaborated with partners around the globe through the International Energy Agency to develop new and efficient technologies such as solar heating and cooling and hybrid vehicles. The American company GE is working in Karaman to build solar and wind energy infrastructure, including the first-ever “integrated renewable combined cycle” system with FlexEfficiency technology. Other key players in the American energy market, such as AES, have also invested heavily in joint ventures with Turkey.
By investing in technology, Turkey is investing in its future. From elementary-level education to start-ups and energy, these investments will continue to pay dividends. By 2023, Turkey is working to double the percentage of its GDP from technology-based industries and increase its computer literacy rate to 80%. The continued success of the FATIH Project and ongoing investments in business and infrastructure will keep Turkey on track to meet these ambitious targets.