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India to ride on ICT revolution, say experts
Fakir Chand in Bangalore |
January 06, 2003 15:23 IST
What if India had missed many a bus over the last two centuries? It's time to make up for all that.
This nation of 1 billion-plus is all set to board the knowledge bus in the 21st century, riding on the information and communication technologies (ICT) revolution.
Top IT experts and head honchos of global Indian software companies like Infosys, TCS, and Mphasis-BFL have gathered at the 90th Indian Science Congress in Bangalore on Monday to demonstrate that the industry has the wherewithal to grab the opportunities and face the challenges of the digital divide in the sub-continent.
Setting the agenda for the fourth plenary session of the five-day congress on 'Information Science and Technologies for Knowledge Society,' Infosys Technologies chairman and chief mentor N R Narayana Murthy has called upon the government and other sectors of the economy to empower the people with the use of ICT tools and look beyond the Indian shores to emerge as a globally competitive player, the way China was going.
"The government must ensure that access to technology and its products becomes affordable to the masses, especially in the countryside, where the majority of India's population still lives and drives the economy," said Murthy.
"If communications, consumer and electronic products could become cheaper enough to become affordable to the majority over the last few years, why not the benefit of computing and access to information click away be offered at an affordable cost?," Murthy asked.
Citing the phenomenal growth of basic and mobile services and penetration of cable or satellite-based television channels in the semi-urban and large rural areas, thanks to easy access at a decreasing cost, Murthy said the government must facilitate access to information, data and wireless devices across the country for empowering the people and make them improve their quality of life.
Moderating the session, Mphasis CEO Jaithirth (Jerry) Rao said the ICT industry should capitalize on the enormous market potential within the country for their products and services.
"The average user of computing and information devices need not know how they are rolled out, what software and hardware goes into them so long as they are user-friendly and easy to operate," said Rao.
"The faster growth rate of cell phones, increasing use of remote controls for television, and all the gadgets in electronic or household appliances are a testimony to the adoption of the people to modern and efficient way of life," he noted.
In order to take the benefits of ICT to the masses, Rao said the government, academia, industry, and the scientific community should have an integrated approach to make access to information, data, transaction, services and products affordable, reliable, and faster in the core areas of education, healthcare, transport, and e-governance.
In this context, Nasscom president Kiran Karnik cited the forays made by a few state governments, academic and non-governmental organisations in the areas of literacy, healthcare, and wireless communication.
"Pilot projects have been launched in a few progressive or developing states, like Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, and Tamil Nadu for spreading adult literacy/primary education, tele-medicine in healthcare, and access to weather and market prices in agriculture commodities involving the common man on a day-to-day basis," Karnik recalled.
If sceptics felt that the Indian software sector has been more export-oriented and global to capture a pie of the multi-billion-dollar world market at the expense of offering or providing their skills and domain expertise within the country, TCS executive vice-president Mahalingam said the global; strategy of the top IT companies was quite realistic as they have, in the process, developed not only world class capabilities, but also created the wherewithal for leveraging their assets to the benefit of the Indian masses.
To illustrate, Mahalingam referred to the dramatic changes brought about by ICT in the capital markets, especially in the operations of the National Stock Exchange and the Bombay Stock Exchange.
"The role of the Indian IT industry in the development and expansion of the financial services from capital markets to banking, insurance, and related products across the country is a case study of its potential to take the benefits of ICT in other services spawning agriculture, manufacturing, food-processing, healthcare (tele-medicine) distant education, and public utilities involving the government agencies," Mahalingam asserted.