DoE Readies Report On National IT Action Plan

The Department of Electronics (DoE) has
prepared the draft report on the IT action plan. The 100-page document is titled India IT
Vision 2010 Action Plan. The action plan has been made on the basis of Prime Minister AB
Vajpayee’s stated intention to make India a global Information Technology superpower
within the next 10 years. In a statement on March 22, Vajpayee said that his government
would "make India a global IT power and one of the world’s largest generators
and exporters of software in the next 10 years."

The task of fleshing out the PM’s
Vision was initially handed over to the Planning Commission, which then passed it to the
DoE. The DoE draft report has been forwarded to the Commission and will come up for
discussion at the newly re-constituted Development Council for Electronics Industry
(DCEI), under the chairmanship of Secretary DoE, in Delhi sometime this week. Another
round of meetings have been scheduled for later in the week with the industry and the
Government to try and work out chinks, if any, in the first draft.

As of now, the IT action plan is a 100-page
document which divides the task into three phases and 25 individual actions. Under the
phased approach, the first phase looks at consolidating existing gains in software
exports. The second calls for a build up through a bootstrap approach. While the third
calls for sustaining the work to take the country into true IT superstardom. The 25 items
listed in the Plan cover everything—from making education compulsory till the school
level to setting up of the National Information Infrastructure (NII) post-haste.
Individual aspects covered also include parameters such as setting up a mega-fab unit on
the hardware front to setting up a National Software Development Front to further
encourage software exports as well as help in the creation of a vibrant local market for
selling software. This is seen as an imperative if India is to move into developing
packaged software. Another area, where the Report lays stress is on developing cyber laws.
Thought the DoE had submitted a draft proposal of the laws to the Committee of
Secretaries, nothing much has happened. This was during the last days of the previous
United Front government. The Report calls for the resurrection of cyber laws and their
immediate implementation if the Vision has to come true. The Report also talks
exhaustively about the need to implement ecommerce at the earliest as well as on boosting
IT proliferation in the country. It has primarily focused on three important aspects of
IT; namely IT enhancement, software exports, and Digital Society.

The Plan also looks at areas like
infrastructure, manpower development, as well as R&D. These three are seen as the main
stumbling blocks which could stymie the Vision from becoming a reality. To counter this,
the Report calls for urgent action on the infrastructure front, specifically to develop a
super structure that will not hinder hardware and software exports. To tackle the issue of
manpower, the Report calls for encouraging students at a very early stage. This can be
done by getting in computers at the school level and by encouraging more education to be
centered around computers. The Report also lists ways to strengthen the R&D
infrastructure in the country. As it could become the engine to fuel IT growth in the next
century.

According to sources within the government,
DoE’s current plan is merely a draft which is to be submitted to a committee of
senior bureaucrats constituted for this express purpose. The committee is represented by
Ministries of I&B, Communication, Commerce, Finance, Science & Technology, besides
Planning Commission. While each of the members have been asked to prepare their
Ministry’s view on what the plan should be, it has been left to the Planning
Commission to finally hammer out a policy framework which will then be submitted to the
PMO.

While the DoE’s plan calls for a
three-phase approach to the entire area of IT proliferation and development, there is a
feeling that it may not serve the purpose of domestic assimilation of IT, a stated purpose
of the PMO directive. As a consequence, the DoE proposals are likely to be seen in context
of proposals from other ministries and a final decision is likely to be taken in this
context.

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