State of the Byte

is an ironical tale. A state which has produced most of India’s Nobel
Laureates has had an indifferent attitude to the Information Age. West
Bengal, which boasts of a rich culture and a time tested educational prowess,
today languishes in the field of IT, thanks mainly to the two decades
of Marxist ideology which not only shied away from encouraging industry,
but in a strangely tragic manner, ensured that the advantages of an educated
middle-class were not accruing home. The result is there for all to see.
Calcutta today stands at the bottom of the IT market ladder, absorbing
less than 10% of total domestic IT market, considered by most IT vendors
as a geography of least importance and one that is generally eschewing
all the resultant advantages and social growth that might otherwise have
been possible.

Not that things are not looking up, they are. In the last one year, several
new entrepreneurs have pitched their tents in the state and are hoping
to be the born-again pioneers to bring in the IT culture to the city and
the state. They claim that this time around, the state government is playing
a positive role in encouraging the entrepreneurs and partnering with them
to usher in the IT Age. So far so good. However, these entrepreneurs and
the politicians must read up their history well enough so that past mistakes
are not repeated. It should not happen that, once again, the City of Joy
promises…only to deceive at the end.

For this time around, if the state does not embrace the IT culture, it
not only stands to lose the interest of the current crop of entrepreneurs
but it may actually see flight of the IT revolution that is set to sweep
the rest of the country. With most state governments actually getting
their act together and putting in concrete plans to informate their administrations
and also make the business environment conducive to investors, West Bengal
might find itself leading the pack of the least IT literate state in the

This will be a sad epitaph to the proud Bengali intellect.

L Subramanyan

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