“Delhi is ready to have IT-enabled services”

Though the state was among the last to come out
with a formal IT policy, chief minister Sheila Dixit hopes to convert New Delhi
into a model cyber city by year 2003–a period too long by her own standards.
In an exclusive interview with DATAQUEST, Dixit talks about her government’s
initiatives to create an atmosphere more conducive for the IT industry’s
growth in the state. Excerpts: 

The Delhi IT policy aims at converting the national capital into a cyber city by the year 2003. What exactly do you mean by this?

I’m looking at Delhi being not a manufacturing kind of city, which
produces either hardware or software alone. My dream city of Delhi would be the
one where the citizens are e-citizens and there is complete e-governance. Delhi
being the capital of the country, I want it to be a true model city for the rest
of the country. It would be a city where all kinds of government information
will be available over the Internet, hence there is a great need to spread the
Internet movement and train the common man in its usage. It’s like the telecom
movement of the last century that ushered in an era of communication. This is
the kind of revolution that I am aiming to bring about in Delhi.

So what are the sops you plan to offer to promote IT industries in the state?
We have thought of sales tax concessions. In fact, we are in favor and would
continue to lobby for a zero duty sales tax on all IT products including sale
and leasing of computers and its accessories, CD-ROMs and other products.
However, we have been forced to adopt a wait-and-watch policy keeping in view
the ruling of uniform sales tax. We may have to tax hardware and software
products, but I assure you, it would not be above the agreed uniform floor rate.

We have also granted
permission to set up computer centers and cyber-cafes in residential areas. We
are also looking at ways to establish an incubation center to help entrepreneurs
to set up their businesses here in Delhi, as also an IT-for-industries project
that would advice existing industries on how to adopt and use IT. Existing
industries would also be encouraged to diversify into IT-enabled activities.

And when can the industry expect the sales tax reforms in Delhi?
We will read it out in our next budget. Where ever we need to give a
thrusting or a helping hand, my government would be there.

A recent CII report on
Indian states suggests that Delhi is the hottest investment destination.
However, experts argue that real estate and power are the two major concern
areas. What is the government doing to address these issues?

Definitely, we cannot increase the space. That is one limitation. However,
IT being a non-polluting service industry, we had requested for change in the
master plan to permit IT industries to operate from residential areas and it has
been approved. Now, we will be able to offer more room to entrepreneurs for
setting their shops in the state. While the power situation in the state has
already improved a lot, we hope to bring in a bill soon that would enable the
state government to privatize distribution of power (the interview was taken
before the government announced its decision on the issue). We are also looking
ahead to buy and produce more power. We have set up a new plant, Pragati, which
would start producing 320 Mw power within 18 months to two years. With all this,
I hope Delhi will be able to offer much more efficient and quality power to the

More industries would
mean more people or floating population. Is Delhi equipped to handle such

No, I don’t think this would be much of a problem. The beauty of IT
industry is that it does not require the kind of space and manpower that the
traditional industries, particularly the manufacturing industries, need. It’s
a neat and small industry where even consumption of power is much less and I
don’t think any region in India, other than Delhi, is better suited for this

So why did people (the IT
industry) not come to Delhi first? They went to Bangalore, Chennai, Hyderabad
and Pune…

Well, I think it’s because the earlier governments just did not think of
it. Investments can come in only if the government offers a clear-cut policy.
It’s my government, which initiated the process. We decided to focus on IT,
tried to make investment attractive and spelt out our IT policy. Other states
did these eight-ten years ago, whereas we have just started. I hope we will be
able to match our performance with the early birds and move ahead.

What are you doing on the
telecom front, particularly wiring the state for the Internet experience?

The telecom front, as you know, is the baby of the central government. But I
am confident that Delhi cannot be either overlooked or neglected. We still have
the best telecom infrastructure in place and we would be the first ones to
benefit from whatever development that happens on the telecom front in the
country. On the wiring of the states, lots of companies have shown interest. We
have a proposal from Reliance, which the government is evaluating. 
What we are doing is–whether it is private sector participation or
whether it is an issue of just allowing them to do it on their own like
Spectranet–giving them opportunity so that the consumers and the user industry
is able to get the best. Competition has been extremely beneficial for the
growth of IT industry and the spread of IT amongst the people. The private
sector has played an important role in this and hence my government will like to
encourage it so that the people are able to benefit further and get the best

What is your government doing to embrace IT?
In our government offices, an added qualification for all new entrants will
be computer familiarity. Secondly, we are training batches of officers to make
them aware of the usage.

I have been categorical to
the bureaucracy that the government should not seem to be resisting new ideas.
That’s why I am keen that nine of our departments switch on to the e-way of
operation. It should so happen that there are e-citizens who demand such
services and then there should be the government that responds to these demands.
This will itself create enough opportunities for the growth of the IT industry,
especially that of IT-enabled services in the state, leading to an overall

What is the status of the
Delhi IT venture fund that was to be launched earlier this year?

These are questions that you really ought to ask the bureaucracy. We had
taken this decision and the details were carefully worked out. 
Now the implementation is with the bureaucrats. 

The policy seems to be
focusing more on IT-enabled services rather than the traditional software
industry. Why?

This is because Delhi is a city that is ready to have IT-enabled services.
More than that, Delhi is a user’s city and hence we deliberately decided to
focus on this aspect of the IT industry. We are also planning to launch a
special scheme to help local industries to diversify into IT-enabled services.

What are you doing on the
manpower front?

We are deliberating with some of the universities and training organizations
to set up a high-tech training center–the Indian Institute of Information
Technology (IIIT). We are also planning to establish an IT open university to
encourage technical courses through university, schools and Industrial training
institutes (ITIs). My government also wants to upgrade the ITIs to enable them
to train people in skills like data entry, transcription, call center
operations, content creation and data processing. In long term planning, we
would like to take computer education to the schools. We have already
computerized about 120 schools this year and hope to computerize the whole bunch
of 1,100 Delhi government schools by 2003. Most of the private schools have been
encouraged, and whosoever said that they would like to have some collaboration
or partnership with the government in providing computers to the students and
training of the trainers, have been welcomed. I have also encouraged colleges to
have cyber cafes within their campuses so that more students can use it and
become aware of the potential.

There is a feeling that
the Delhi government does not actually have the powers to implement a lot of
things that it has mentioned in its IT policy. For example, your government had
to seek permission from the central government to allow IT ventures to operate
from residential areas…

Had we not had these speed breakers in our path and impediments in the form
of interference from the central government and other agencies, our growth would
have been much faster.  In fact,
these are the bottlenecks that are slowing down our pace and that is why we gave
ourselves three years for this reform.  We
have been talking to the central government, we have been talking to agencies
like MCD, and all of them are a little slow in understanding Delhi’s needs.
Our problem is that we are much faster than their speed of response. I wish they
would have been moving with the same speed as us or we had the powers of doing
it all alone.  In the case of
allowing IT companies to operate from the residential areas, we had to request
the government of India to make the necessary amendments in the Delhi master
plan. If only we had powers to do it ourselves, we would have announced it much
earlier. These are our handicaps.


in New Delhi

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