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October 27, 1997


Dear Mr Naidu

Bill Gates offers to jump start Andhra Pradesh's digital revolution.

A Staff Reporter in Bombay

Microsoft CEO Bill Gates, in a letter to Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister N Chandrababu Naidu, has offered to depute a senior manager to help the state firm up its information technology programmes.

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Gates has said he is excited about the information technology initiatives taken by the state. 'I am personally excited about your Information Technology Vision Group for Andhra Pradesh. As a software technology leader, I believe we can contribute to this group. If you agree, I would be happy to nominate one of my senior managers to participate in this group,' the letter said.

The corporation has recently formed alliances with the Indian Institute for Information Technology and the Indian subsidiary of the company has inked a memorandum of understanding with the Andhra Pradesh Technology Services.

Gates has said in the letter that between three and six months Microsoft will take a major decision on whether to locate a software development centre outside the United States. 'Should we decide to do a development centre outside the US, we are looking at India as a location for such a facility,' he assured.

He has also requested Naidu to provide any information and assistance to enable Microsoft to take the right decision in the matter.

When Rediff On The Net got through to Naidu's residence at Hyderabad, he could not immediately comment on the development.

The letter also said that setting up of an electronic government is a focus area for Microsoft in India and that Microsoft India now has a team dedicated to work with central and state governments. They would also assign a person to focus on Microsoft's projects and initiatives in the state.

Hoping that they could work on several projects together in the state to showcase their products in government, he said the 'citizen card' and 'file-tracking projects' would be of great interest and value. This would cement the partnership between Andhra Pradesh and Microsoft, Gates said.

T S Krishnan, Microsoft India's director, ECU, told Rediff On The Net that the letter is "to reinforce the fact that Microsoft is keen to work with AP". He explained that the correspondence is a sequel to Gates' visit to the country, his meeting with Naidu and the handful of recent ventures Microsoft has entered into.

Krishnan said the business of wiring governments "is an extremely important focus area for not only Microsoft worldwide but also Microsoft in India". He, however, could not immediately say in which countries Microsoft has had the experience of computerising governments.

When pointed out that Tata-IBM, Big Blue's joint venture in the country, is actively targeting the government computerisation business and has also got an Institute of Electronic Governance to back its claims to expertise in the field, Krishnan said "Competition is inevitable in any large business. But we have breadth of technology to our advantage. We have a better understanding of governments as we always work with them."

Tata-IBM Managing Director Ravi Marwah, when contacted, was not aware of the development. He said he would comment only after seeing the Gates letter.

When Krishnan was asked to comment on the speculation that Microsoft's offer to help Andhra Pradesh with computerisation may be conditional to Microsoft setting up its first overseas development centre in the state, he denied it outright. "No final decision has been taken on the matter. It is too early to talk of it."

Earlier: Who's afraid of Chandrababu Naidu?

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