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September 18, 1997


Net 'em young

Cybercruising Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister N Chandrababu Naidu is weaving a new web these days. In a bid to create a generation of computer-savvy professionals, Naidu has initiated an ambitious project to link every school in the state with the Internet.

And you don't need a spreadsheet to figure out that the project stems from Naidu's grand vision of transforming Hyderabad into another Silicon Valley.

The chief minister realises that he will need the services of the digerati to achieve his dream of wiring the state's education set-up. Hence, the state government has joined hands with the National Association of Software and Service Companies to set up the project with an initial seed capital of Rs 30 million. NASSCOM Executive Director Dewang Mehta has been appointed to head the project. Assistance from the centre and the World Bank is also being considered.

With the Centre expected to announce an Internet policy soon, the project's organisers are hopeful that obtaining a full-fledged TCP/IP Internet connection will become easier.

The Centre's positive signals on liberalising the spread of ISPs in the country has gladdened Naidu, who hopes to invite as many ISPs into his state as possible. Given the state's large geographical area, NASSCOM has estimated that at least 25 earth stations or VSATs are needed to connect every school.

Several of the state's cash-rich public schools have already installed computers. Some are even wired to the Internet, thanks to the 'student Internet connection' introduced recently by the Videsh Sanchar Nigam Limited, which controls Internet access in India at present.

However, the government and municipal schools are starved of funds and cannot possibly invest in information technology education. These are the schools that are expected to receive the maximum share of the project.

The concept of computers in education is not a new one in the country. In fact, the Birla Institute of Technology and Science, Pilani, is planning to set up a 'virtual university'. However, Naidu's Internet initiative marks the first attempt in the country to link up every school in a state.

Andhra Pradesh is also the first state to have set up a department of information technology. NASSCOM is advising the state government on its IT policy.

The state government has already embarked on a three-pronged IT mission, which includes setting up an Indian Institute of Information Technology (yet another first for India) on the scale of the Bangalore-based Indian Institute of Science.

The state government plans to pump in an initial Rs 200 million into the institute, while another Rs 500 million is planned to be raised through corporate sponsorship.

Hyderabad is also setting up a hi-tech city, modelled on Bangalore's Information Technology Parks Limited. An eight-lane expressway is being planned from the airport to the hi-tech city to enable smooth passage of foreign business.

- Compiled from the Indian media

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