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November 24, 1998


Vajpayee inaugurates Satyamonline, first private ISP

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Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee has launched Satyamonline, India's first private sector Internet access service.

Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister N Chandrababu Naidu released the first Internet connection from Satyamonline to the prime minister. Vajpayee was inaugurating the first phase of the Hi-Tec City project near Hyderabad on Sunday.

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Satyam Infoway, a wholly owned subsidiary of Hyderabad headquartered Satyam Computer Services Limited, is providing the Satyamonline access service.

Satyam Infoway is one of the first companies in India to have received the category 'A' license from the Department of Telecommunications to commercially start operating its Internet access services.

Satyam Chairman R Ramalinga Raji told reporters that they would offer Internet services in all major locations of the country where the company already has offices and a network.

DoT's technical evaluation committee and the CompuServe online service of the United States have certified the Satyam network.

Satyam Infoway Managing Director R Ramarao said the company has already arranged for sufficient bandwidth with its 2 MBPS backbone link to meet the requirements of its subscribers that are expected to be around 100,000 over the next 12 months.

The ready-to-use connections that are now commercially available will initially cover 12 cities. In the next two months, it will expand to 40 cities.

It would be progressively made available to all major cities and would be expanded to include every district headquarters in the country, he added.

A 24-hour call support centre would provide help to subscribers that are to be signed up by Satyam's all-India distribution network of 150 sales partners. This effort would be augmented by also making the access package available through 200 retail outlets.

The company is initially providing three types of connections for professional, home and businesses with access time options of 100 and 500 hours spread over 10 to 12 months.

Besides, it will provide three add-on services covering international roaming facility, domain name registration and additional electronic mail.

The company's online service, he said, has proactively bundled electronic systems to censor the Internet in such a way that the subscriber can control access to objectionable Web sites.

A software packaged along with the Internet account lets customers buy a ready-to-use Internet connection off the shelf, register and start browsing within a few minutes.

A value addition in the compact disc package is a multimedia Internet training programme and a customised dialler programme to enable the user to access his account and create his email account online.

Vajpayee took the occasion to point out that there is a serious imbalance in the growth of information technology in the country and the benefits of IT cannot remain confined to the well-off and people educated in English in urban areas.

Throwing open the Rs 800-million first phase of the Hi-Tec City he said his government would consider its commitment to the IT sector fulfilled only when IT helps improve the lot of the poor and the powerless.

He urged professionals to address themselves to three national tasks - increasing the use of computers in Indian languages, developing IT applications for rural development and agriculture and improving the government-citizen interface by using computer networks.

He said there is a need to create more and more Indian content, both in English and other Indian languages, on the Internet.

Vajpayee said the lack of timely and accurate information on weather and crop conditions is a major factor for the current rise in the prices of essential commodities. Hence, the government is considering the setting up of a national centre for crop forecasting that would require very reliable and widespread IT infrastructure.

Vajpayee said application of IT for rural development and agriculture would also need a growing IT culture in rural areas where the people could use networked computers.

He said the 'wired villages' pilot project, being implemented by the government in Warananagar in Maharashtra is an attempt to create such an IT culture in rural areas.

However, the country requires hundreds of such wired villages to achieve the desired results. He said India could not become an IT superpower unless computer technology is rapidly expanded and the telecom infrastructure is modernised to match the best in the world.

Criticising the previous governments for adopting wrong policies that have resulted in the lack of development in the telecom sector, he said a committee set up under the leadership of Planning Commission Deputy Chairman Jaswant Singh would go into all issues in the sector and suggest fundamental reforms.

The national telecom policy, to be formulated by this committee, will be guided by national interests. It would meet the twin objectives of accelerating the growth of telecom services, especially in rural areas and increasing penetration of personal computers and development of trained manpower, he said.

Vajpayee complimented the Andhra Pradesh government for uniquely combining the strength of the government and the IT industry for setting up the Indian Institute of Information Technology at Hyderabad.

The IIIT concept, pioneered by the state, is being adopted by many states now and the government is considering the request to accord the institute the status of a deemed university.

He hoped that other state governments would learn from the experience of Andhra Pradesh, which has completed a project for computerisation of land registration. This has reduced processing time from seven days to just one hour.

Vajpayee said for him IT means "India's tomorrow" and that tomorrow has already taken shape in Andhra Pradesh.

"Chief Minister Naidu's vision of turning Hyderabad into 'cyberabad', or knowledge city, is attracting the attention of the IT industry around the globe," he said, expressing confidence that Andhra Pradesh would soon become "Cyber Pradesh".

Naidu announced that the second phase of the Hi-Tec City, Cyber Gateway, would begin immediately and requested the prime minister to cut all forms of duties and taxes relating to the use of computer equipment for distance education.

He also urged Vajpayee to sanction an international airport for Hyderabad so that it could emerge as a transport hub of Southeast Asia.

Earlier, on the eve of the inauguration of the Hi-Tec city, the Prime Minister's Task Force on Information Technology had announced that it has decided that a Rs 25 billion "megafab", a facility for manufacturing integrated circuits, should be set up in the country for security and strategic reasons.

National Informatics Centre Director-General Dr N Seshagiri pointed out that with microelectronics entering various sectors, including defence and consumer durables, the megafab has become a necessity.

He said three different approaches are being considered for setting up the megafab. The first is to upgrade the existing facility in Mohali, the second is to set up an entirely new facility and the third is to invite existing manufacturers like Intel to set up such facilities in the country.

Discussions have been held with several multinationals including Intel that has expressed willingness subject to provision of infrastructure facilities.

To a question, Dr Seshagiri said Maharashtra, West Bengal, Andhra Pradesh and Tamil Nadu have offered the facilities required to be set up the megafab.

The task force has also worked out a proposal to bring down the cost of computers with multimedia and Internet facilities to about Rs 20,000, well within the reach of students.

Discussions are also being held with leasing and hire-purchase companies to work out schemes to bring computers within the budgets of students.

Such high quality affordable computers should be available in the market within six to eight months, he added.

On the growth of the information technology industry in Andhra Pradesh, IT Secretary R Chandrashekar said the number of units registered have grown from 24 in 1993-94 to 157 now and is expected to reach 200 by April.

Software exports have grown from Rs 41.5 million in 1992-93 to Rs 2.83 billion in 1997-98 and are expected to touch Rs 6 billion in 1998-99, registering more than 100 per cent growth over the last year, he said.

A number of teams from major companies and organisations like Sun Microsystems, Autodesk, IBM, Oracle, Lucent Technologies, 12 Technologies and Tertium International have visited Hyderabad for setting up shop and expanding their presence.

After the recent visit of Naidu to the US, he said about 15 units have registered with the Software Technology Parks of India, Hyderabad, during October this year and another 20 prospective units are in the process of registering.

The total investments proposed by these companies is around Rs 210 million with an expected export turnover of about Rs 2.59 billion. Export from Hyderabad is expected to cross Rs 10 billion by 2000, he added.

The Hi-Tec City project, to be built over five to ten years on a 158-acre site would cost about Rs 15 billion. It would provide direct employment to 5,000 IT professionals in the first phase and to 50,000 when completed.

The overall employment potential of the project, both direct and indirect, would exceed 250,000.


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