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August 26, 1997


Brave new cities

The Department of Electronics has proposed to develop about 50 'global software cities' across the country with a projected investment of roughly Rs 50 billion during the Ninth Plan period.

These software cities are supposed to be intelligent wired cities, complete with telecommunications, data communications links and uninterrupted power supply, academic institutions, hotels and recreational and health facilities.

The plan was suggested by a study team of the Ninth Plan for Software Development and Export. It was set up by the DoE. The plan targets at providing 20 million square feet of office space. In short, it would be a complete package of reliable infrastructure and service support to the industry.

While the DoE itself cannot get such high investment, the initiative is expected to come from the states and the private sector. The Hi-Tech City in Hyderabad, Infinity in Calcutta and Singapore Technology Park in Bangalore are some of the initiatives in this direction, said P S Narotra, director of the Software Technology Park of India at NOIDA.

Referring to the Indian software industry, Narotra has said that having achieved an export figure of over $1 billion in 1995-96, it has set a target of $5 billion by 2000-2001. To achieve this, a revised strategy is being pursued.

However, while the software industry has gained in confidence, the biggest challenge staring in its face is how to produce high-end trained manpower within the country. The DoE also has plans to support the IITs and creating centres of excellence to generate a part of the manpower. Referring to the demand for high-end trained manpower that the software industry needs, only radical changes in the education system that keeps pace with the technological changes become a must, Narotra argued.

The participation of the industry, therefore, becomes very important. Help, even in the form of donation of equipment to universities and other educational institutions should be welcomed, he added.

According to projections, the shortfall in manpower in the software industry would be of the order of about 60,000 professionals by the end of the Ninth Plan. For the domestic software industry itself, a pool of about 225,000 professionals are required.

Narotra said that, at present, the Indian software industry is in a very preliminary stage and is yet to adopt information technology in a big way. The current level of computers is only 1.6 million, of which 40 per cent are obsolete.

The penetration level is as low as 1 per 1,000. As far as infrastructure support is concerned, dedicated IBS Earth stations have been set up at STPI centres, while countrywide Internet service by VSNL has also given some relief to the IT industry, Narotra said.

However, inter-connection of networks should get high priority, he said. To promote entrepreneurship, Narotra felt a special venture capital scheme should be introduced. He said collateral security for working capital funds and other stringent formalities should be removed.

- Compiled from the Indian media

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