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August 23, 2001
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Govt considering steps to protect Simputer: Mahajan

The government said on Thursday it was considering steps to ensure protection of the Simputer, a low cost hand-held computing device, as invention or intellectual property in terms of trade mark, patent or copyrights.

In a written reply to the Rajya Sabha, Minister for Information Technology Pramod Mahajan said the production cost of Simputer, with in-built multiple connectivity options, is expected to be $200 when produced in large volumes.

Simputer has been developed by some faculty members of the Indian Institute of Science, Bangalore and a commercial company called Encore Software Ltd, he informed the House.

He said the Simputer is modular and based on Linux operating system. It speaks (using text to speech) in several Indian languages and uses the SmartCard technology, allowing it to be shared within a community or village, lent by a shopkeeper or an office on rental basis.

The minister said pro-poor applications such as micro banking, metre reading, inventory records etc are envisaged to be possible at an affordable price, while adding that similar systems with some comparable features and performance are being developed elsewhere in the world as well.

Mahajan said the development of Simputer in India at present is at the level of Beta prototype testing.

IT: Government also informed the House that the IT industry is estimated to have earned $12.2 billion in 2000-01.

Professionals: Mahajan, in reply to another question, quoted Nasscom estimates to say that about 1,000 IT professionals may have returned from the USA due to current slowdown in its economy and many companies there slashing costs and laying off employees.

Internet: The minister said it was not possible for the government to completely prevent access to any site on the Internet while answering a question on whether there has been undesirable exposure of children to the net.

Europe: He said Germany, Italy and Switzerland have recently simplified visa rules for Indian IT professionals visiting these countries for execution of software contracts.

Also, the government has approved four proposals - three from Australian companies and one from New Zealand - envisaging subsidiary operations in India for 100 per cent export of IT software from this country.

The European Union countries comprise the second largest market for Indian IT products after the USA and to boost trade with these countries, ministry of information technology has signed an MoU with the EU besides setting up a joint working group to promote bilateral trade.

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