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August 19, 1999
New government advised to focus on tech convergenceThe US based Pacific Telecommunications Council has said the new government that takes over after general elections in India must merge various government departments to allow convergence of new technologies.
''This is required if India has to ensure benefits from several key recommendations of the Information Technology Taskforce.'' Also, the priority should be to get the National Telecom Policy 1999 endorsed by the new Lok Sabha. This should be done before the country enters the new millennium, he said.
Dr Rao called for a new Communications Act instead of the prevailing Indian Telegraph Act 1885 that several experts say has become irrelevant now. His comments assume importance at a time when several foreign investors have said the slow pace of reforms in the telecom sector could slow down inflow of funds in other infrastructure sectors as well.
The new government could be expected to be more receptive to take up the much needed hard decisions for the telecom sector in the first two months, hopefully before December 6 when the Delhi high court will have the next hearing on NTP 99.
The PTC is a non-profit, non-governmental organisation that provides a forum for policy makers, operators, carriers and users to debate telecom related issues.
Dr Rao said though a revenue sharing system is a far better proposition than a fixed licence fee regime, the migration should have been done by the government in a transparent manner.
However, he said, the mistrust and suspicion currently prevailing in the telecom sector should end. The onus lies with the industry as much as with the DoT and the government.
''Technology will not wait for lengthy national debates. In a country like India, the concept of 'consensus' needs to be redefined. The process has to be quicker which is possible once we have transparent methodologies to operationalise decision-making,'' Dr Rao said.
He said the role of the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India requires to be clarified, strengthened and enabled rather than be allowed to dissipate despite its inadequacies at present. ''Its very credibility needs to be refurbished. It's all out concern has to be consumer needs.''
At the same time, DoT and the Telecom Commission should be more cooperative with TRAI. In turn, TRAI should be more concerned and transparent, Dr Rao said.
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