Gujarat Joins IT Bandwagon



Fighting the commonly held per ception that Gujarat has missed the IT bus,
the state government has recently taken various steps to ensure that the
infotech sector gets a boost and realizes its potential. In pursuance of this
objective, Gujarat held a special session on IT during the ‘Vibrant Gujarat’
event in 2003, which was followed by the annual ‘Communication and Information
Technology (CIT)’ conference in January 2004. As a result of these initiatives
some very tangible gains have accrued to the state.

A special brainstorming session was also held on e-governance, which was
attended by bureaucrats, ministers and corporate entities alike. CIT saw the
participation of the who’s who of the IT industry, including ICT majors like
Microsoft, Netcore Solutions, Tata Teleservices, Tata Telecom, TCS, LG
Electronics and BSNL among others.  “Occupancy at Infocity, one of the
premier IT parks of the country, has gone up considerably in the last two
months,” says Anupam Saxena, chief of Infocity.

Saxena said that with the overall improvement in the investment scenario in
Gujarat many companies like International Business Resource Center, Vigyan
Solutions Software Development, RVS Business Solutions, GAIL had already signed
up with Infocity. This was in addition to the units which have been here for
quite some time now, he added.

The state government has ensured that services and utilities are available in
a 24/7 environment at the IT parks. A round-the-clock help-line to provide
assistance to customers is available, along with various other operational
services. For instance, Infocity has a single-window clearance concept, covering
all matters related to government subsidies and incentives, legal and regulatory
work and approvals, financial assistance and project funding. Says Vagmin Buch,
joint secretary, science and technology department, “The IT parks are
shaping up well. We have ensured that accessibility from the Ahmedabad airport,
which is now an international airport, is easy. Infocity, for instance, is 15 km
from Ahmedabad and just a 15-minute drive from the airport. It is a
plug-and-play set up and we have even set up residential premises within the
Infocity Club. It was envisaged as a knowledge park; it has evolved into a
knowledge garden. Then there is the Software Technology Park in Gandhinagar with
facilities as well as concessions for IT companies.”

The state has also taken the initiative of facilitating information outlets
at the doorstep of the common man, including rural areas. The government
plans to spend 1% of the state budget every year on IT-related
activities. This figure is to be raised to 3% by 2005. Apart from providing
the basic infrastructure and promoting the IT industry, the government has
recognized that efforts have to be made at the school level to increase the
level of awareness and improve the standard of IT education. It has been
focusing on teaching computer usage and the English language in schools.

The Gujarat government has now taken fresh steps to attract more IT units to
the state. The state’s new IT policy, which has a significant thrust on the
BPO sector, will be announced soon, now that the elections are over.

Commenting on the policy, Navayendu Yagnik, president, GESIA (Gujarat
Electronics and Software Industries Association), the representative industry
body, says, “We have urged the government to aggressively market Gujarat as
the destination of choice for BPO companies, on par with Karnataka, Andhra
Pradesh and Kerala.” GESIA has recommended single-window clearance for IT
projects and incentives in the form of exemptions in electricity duty, sales tax
and octroi. The government has also proactively taken feedback from
representative bodies and corporates. As a result, it has now amended the Shops
and Establishment Act, as a result of which call centers are now allowed to
employ women workers to work during the night. Furthermore, the new policy is
also expected to address the ISP segment.

With the kind of effort being put in by the state government it is not
surprising that Gujarat is increasingly being seen as a viable alternative to
metros for setting up IT units. However, it now remains to be seen how soon the
state realizes its potential in IT.

Team DQ

IT Policy: Key Highlights




During the last quarter of this century Information Technology (IT) has
transformed the way of human life as no other technology has. IT has potential
of converting our society into a truly knowledge based society. IT also gives us
a chance in ensuring that such an evolution leads to an equitable society. Now,
there is no area of human life, which is not affected by IT in one way or the
other. To ensure that people of the state of Gujarat reap the benefits of this
epoch making development, it is imperative that the state government evolves a
coordinated strategy, which could affect all the facets of life of citizens of
the state.

Mission: To help improve processes in the government by using computing
devices, communication systems associated electronics and software to provide
better delivery systems to the citizens.

It is very clearly understood that IT is not an end in itself but means to
provide better quality of life to the citizens of the state. It does not aim at
merely automating existing process but the target is to use IT to improve
overall organizational efficiency and pass the benefits to the citizens of the
state.

Objectives: n Overall IT growth in the state of Gujarat

n To create enormous new
employment opportunities in the state

n To train and develop skilled
manpower in IT.

n To facilitate information
outlets at the doorstep of the common man. This will enable people at large to
access information related to education, i.e. technical and nontechnical courses
offered by various institutions, admission procedures, admission lists, results
etc.; health services – like medical expertise available at different hospitals,
on line medical services etc.; transport service information – like bus arrival
and departure timings, reservation facilities etc. Information Kiosks will also
provide the on-line delivery of various application forms to the users,
irrespective of their location in the state.

n To make government – Citizen
interface more effective, efficient and transparent

Private sector participation: As IT is likely to emerge as a major
infrastructure for the state, participation of private sector is extremely
important, both from the point view of attracting additional resources and
introducing sufficient competition so that the focus on customer is not missed
out in any case. Private sector would participate in (1) creation of ‘information
corridor’ (2) in setting up of information kiosks (3) provision of services
for creating of database oriented services.

Private participation is encouraged for Global, national and Regional
agencies, under state IT policy, to work in setting of high-tech cities, IT
training and educational institutions which, in turn, will create enormous job
opportunities and economic development of the state. IT secretariat will evolve
suitable policy for private-public participation in this area.

Attitudinal changes and computer literacy: Introduction of IT is likely to
introduce a shift in paradigm from authoritarian paternal approach to a
facilitator/sharing one. This means it not only changes in attitudes with
respect to technology but change in the work culture itself.

The following steps need to be taken to bring about changes in attitudes of
the government servants whose productivity is sought to be improved.

n Rigorous training on computer
devices and the related hardware so that the fear of new technology evaporates
completely.

n Work system will only be more
productive when the procedures are drastically simplified and employees are
empowered. This would mean large-scale delegation of powers. This is possible in
the new paradigm and the accountability can be easily be fixed in the new system
that are being put in place. Government will strive to delegate greater decision
making power at the cutting edge of the administration, in tandem with the
establishment of departmental databases, so that the middle level is free for
rigorous monitoring of budget and performance measurement and senior management
level at the government have more time for strategic thought and policy
formulations.

n Tiered training program where
operating level would be exposed to working of specific transaction system,
middle level to handling of Management Information Systems (MIS) and senior
level to emerging trends in IT as rate of obsolescence of technology in this
area is very fast.

n Incentive scheme of employees
who excel in IT related areas. A specific scheme would be formulated
subsequently.

n Compulsory computer literacy
for all new recruits in the government services. The concerned departments in
the recruitment rules would make necessary changes to this affect.

Education: IT seeks to create a knowledge-based society and education is the
very basis for creating such a superstructure. In fact the very success of IT
initiative whether in the government or in the industry or at homes would
largely depend upon the extent to which our educational system caters to the
need of trained manpower as well as bring down the fear of technology.

n Compulsory computer education
would be introduced in all the schools from class-V onwards.

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