Gloria Shkurti Özdemir, Insight Turkey
Damla Turan, Head of the Technology Entrepreneurship Department, Ministry of Industry and Technology
Nezir Akyeşilmen, Selçuk University
Erman Akıllı, Ahi Evran University
Cenay Babaoğlu, Niğde Ömer Halisdemir University
Damla Turan started her speech by explaining what Türkiye aims to achieve in the field of technology. The changing understanding of technology worldwide and the technological developments that have led to the 4th Industrial Revolution have encouraged Türkiye to take rapid and future-oriented steps. Within this context, Türkiye has announced a new vision known as the National Technology Move. The main purpose of the National Technology Move is to make technological breakthroughs by establishing indigenous, national, and authentic technologies. On the other hand, Türkiye argues that technological developments cannot be left to the monopoly of a single country and that a fair and shareable future can be established, supporting this with the National Technology Move.
When we look at it from this perspective, we see that Türkiye has reached its current technological development by following a timely state policy. In 2019, a technological strategy document was published and targets were set. In line with similar targets, success has been achieved to a great extent. The real targets of the National Technology Move were framed with a document published in 2019. Within this framework, a list of steps to be taken in many areas has been created, and, especially in the Defense Industry, there has been a serious breakthrough. The localization rate, which was 20 percent in 2002, has reached 80 percent within the last 20 years. Producing its own weapons and actively using them has increased the effectiveness and deterrence capability of the Defense Industry.
Reasons such as national interests and strategic goals make the Defense Industry important. Due to this importance, weight has been given to the defense industry, and development efforts in the defense industry have been seen as a necessity. These developments have been followed by private companies or civil society, opening up avenues for development. In most developed countries, Defense Industries have historically paved the way for technological developments. Civilian structures following the Defense Industry activities have made progress thanks to the political support of the state. In addition to the support of the state, it is also important to ensure that these developments have a counterpart in society to provide community support. In this context, the Teknofest events organized by Türkiye not only enable the public at large to follow technological developments but also encourage them to contribute to technological activities. Teknofest takes a stance against the 'learned helplessness' that is customary in our country. It has ensured that the understanding of "we can do it now" has become dominant.
In light of all these technological initiatives, Türkiye's first domestically produced car, TOGG, has been an important step and an issue of national pride. With the TOGG project, an environmentally friendly and state-of-the-art automobile has been brought into the market in line with international trends. Equally important is Türkiye’s significant accumulation in the field of biotechnology, specifically in the health sector. During the COVID-19 period, we have closely observed that the lack of technology had devastating effects, especially in the health sector. While the whole world was in urgent need of respirators, Türkiye overcame this major problem during the pandemic by making its own respirator in a short time. Again during the pandemic, there was a serious need for ventilators, and Türkiye managed to rapidly establish a domestically produced ventilator by supporting a start-up with 3 engineers.
Turan concluded her speech by saying that these changes in our country prove that we can build a future together and that we should believe in ourselves.
Our second speaker, Nezir Akyeşilmen discussed cybersecurity, its repercussions and Türkiye’s policies in this regard. Cyber technologies have caused a revolution in the last 20 years, increasing security concerns. It emerged in the early 1970s and became widespread in the 1990s. In the first 10 to 15 years of its emergence, it was used for transparency and did not pose a security threat. With the emergence of malicious code in the late 1980s, there were discussions that cybersecurity was jeopardized.
In the early 2000s, attacks on large companies and Iran's nuclear work concretized the danger. After these events large organizations, especially states, started to take cybersecurity measures to protect themselves. Many countries have published cybersecurity documents demonstrating the extent to which the importance of cybersecurity has been reached.
Before and during the Cold War, there was a state-centered security concern. Today, especially with the widespread use of social media, security problems have emerged in which the individual is at the center. However, there is no center in cyberspace. As in international relations, there is a ‘hyper anarchy.’ While there are borders determined by states and subject to agreements in international relations, there are no borders in cyberspace.
Türkiye published a cybersecurity strategy document for the first time in 2013. Türkiye currently ranks 11th among the safest countries in cybersecurity. According to the International Telecommunications Union's research on cyber-secure countries, Türkiye ranked 22nd in 2015, 43rd in 2017, 29th in 2018, and 11th in 2020. According to the E-Government Index, Türkiye ranked 57th out of 100 countries, while according to National Cyber Power's research, Türkiye ranked 23rd out of 30 countries in terms of its ability to respond to cyber-attacks.
Türkiye has also increased its national security by conducting studies in the field of cybersecurity, especially since 2013. From a technical point of view, Türkiye is in a good position in the written field but has remained weak in the hardware field. There is a lack of coordination among institutions working in the field of cybersecurity in Türkiye. On the other hand, since there is no intensive work on a national scale, social and individual awareness raising is required. And unfortunately, the lack of sufficient studies on cybersecurity in the social sciences reduces the visibility of the danger. Although some problems have been raised about transparency, strong cooperation between the state and the private sector will help to accelerate developments.
Cenay Babaoğlu, the 3rd speaker on our panel, mainly talked about digitalization. Babaoğlu stated that Türkiye has made serious progress in the last 25 years, especially with the e-government application breakthrough. Along with many sectoral initiatives in the post-2010 period, the 2015-2018 Information Society Strategy and Action Plan, implemented in 2015, was a crucial milestone. Additionally, the National e-Government Strategy and Action Plan for 2016 to 2019 were developed during this time. Another pillar of transformation was created during the same time as the National Cyber Security Strategy and Action Plans. One of the key players in this process has been the Presidency Digital Transformation Office, which was set up following the switch to the Presidential Government System in 2018.
Our panelist gave examples of the digitalization of government during the COVID-19 pandemic. According to Babaoğlu, mobile applications like ‘Life Fits Into Home’, developed within the scope of combating the pandemic in Türkiye, worked both to monitor case data and disease processes. All of these participants helped to manage the process in various industries during the pandemic. The ability to continue and maintain the dynamic actions initiated throughout the pandemic is what matters most. The Digital Transformation Office (DDO) will continue to play a significant role in this regard. Only through institutionalized and long-lasting processes will it be possible to sustain these improvements. The two primary policy sectors that have a significant impact on big populations, digital transformation in education and health policies, have been areas that have sparked a change in terms of states and people. The fact that the information gathered during the pandemic is also utilized in the post-pandemic phase will maintain interest in it. In the post-pandemic age, social media and online channels will continue to be the simplest ways to communicate with citizens.
The main purpose of using such technologies and infrastructures during the pandemic was to ensure that various services were brought to the users. For example, universities established distance education centers within their own structures to bring education to the feet of the society that could not physically receive it. In this process, it has been observed that lecturers and students who were not favorable to distance education were also integrated into this system as a necessity. As a result, the panelist argues that both the e-government application and online services at the local level will continue to play a role in a large part of our lives in the post-pandemic period as well as having made our lives easier in the pandemic.
Our last panelist, Ermen Akıllı, concluded the panel with the topic of Turkoverse. Erman Akıllı started his speech by defining the Metaverse and after analyzing the economic dimension of the Metaverse, he explained Türkiye's efforts in this field.
Akıllı also mentioned that Metaverse can be used in public diplomacy. Starting the subject by defining public diplomacy, he stated that public diplomacy, which is simply known as a state explaining itself to others in its own way, can be used in many ways thanks to the Metaverse, which eliminates physical obligations.
On the other hand, our speaker also mentioned a big problem. Cybersecurity law, which is not fully developed in the international arena, will bring serious security weaknesses with the entry of countries into the Metaverse world. Therefore, states have turned more towards creating their own Metaverse worlds.
With the support of Türkiye and the Organization of Turkic States, Akıllı suggests the creation of the Turkoverse. This would be an important development for both our country and the Turkic World.
If we take a brief look at the Turkoverse, it is the idea of creating both integration and unity in the hinterland of the Turkic World under the leadership of Türkiye, especially in education by integrating Turkish universities. This could be expanded to the field of tourism over time.
Akıllı concluded his speech by wishing that developments such as Metaverse will make beneficial contributions to humanity.
Insight Turkey hopes that the panel is fruitful and provides a better understanding of the issue at hand. The full panel can be found on our Youtube channel.