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October 18, 1999
Formation of Department of IT buoys industry hopeNeena Haridas in New Delhi
The information technology industry feels the central government's move to create a Department of Information Technology is the beginning of good times.
With the new government in place, industry leaders are hoping to put in place the long-awaited policies and cyber laws.
The outgoing Secretary of Department of Electronics Ravindra Gupta had announced that the draft bill for cyber laws would be placed before Parliament in the winter session.
The industry feels that a specialised ministry is necessary at the point because of the rapid rate of growth in the infotech world, especially e-commerce.
With the government emphasising on its commitment to IT, the industry is hopeful that the cyber laws bill will become law by mid-2000.
According to sources, in the next one year, there will be laws to "legitimise'' acceptance of electronic documents in a court of law as evidence.
This would require amendments in the Indian Penal Code, Indian Evidence Act and the Bankers Book of Documents Act.
Also required is an enabling provision in the RBI Act that will permit electronics fund transfer.
The new bill will put in place the concept of digital signatures and will enable the government to create agencies to keep "electronic keys".
More importantly, it will define computer crimes and prescribe penalties for these crimes.
Another area that the industry is looking for some quick action in is venture capital. Under the current law, venture capitalists in India have unlimited liabilities in start-ups, which they are not to keen on.
Hence, they want a US-like situation, where they will have only limited liabilities. The new ministry is likely to take this seriously and prepare a new draft bill to put the law in place regarding venture capital.
Besides, according to industry sources, the government wants to send across the message of convergence, which is the new buzzword, thus making the IT ministry a single point for all infotech related sectors and communication.
While converging science and technology, communication, information and broadcasting might take a while, many feel an IT specific ministry is beginning in this direction.
Sources also added that this proposal has been one reason for the delay in allocating the infotech portfolio. The prime Minister's handling of the portfolio would make it easier for the government to implement the policies, they said.
The National Telecom Policy in February this year recognised the convergence of technologies in communications and broadcasting.
The policy, at the entry and discussion stages had suggested across-the-board mingling and associations in the form of tie-ups between all licence holders.
In effect, a cellular mobile service provider would be allowed direct interconnectivity if there is a tie-up with any other service provider, be it a radio pager licence holder, basic service or Internet service provider.
The world over, convergence of technology means much more. DTH players can offer much more than merely a bouquet of channels.
The band in use could offer telecom services such as satellite telephones on which Internet and other communication facilities can be packed in.
Similarly, cable operators can offer basic telephony and Internet services besides the regular TV channels.
Obviously, e-commerce is just another benefit of technology convergence.
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