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Bengal lags behind IT big league

Calcutta, March 21: Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee’s Bengal has a lot of catching up to do before it can book its berth in the big league of IT hotspots in the country.

According to a study commissioned by the Centre, Bengal lags behind Karnataka, Maharashtra, Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh (mentioned in the report as leaders) and Gujarat, Goa, Delhi and Chandigarh (aspiring leaders) in terms of its e-readiness. The study was commissioned to help policy makers take stock of the ground realities and draw up the future course of action.

The National Council for Applied Economic Research study — titled Assessment of e-readiness and Evaluation of States and Union Territories — on behalf of the Central government places Bengal along with Uttar Pradesh and Kerala in the “expectant” league, the third level.

Though the 103-page draft report mentions Bengal’s superior performance in comparison to other eastern states, it clearly indicates that the government must intensify its efforts to make the chief minister’s dream — Bengal among the top three IT destinations in the country — come true. The final report will be submitted to the government towards the end of April.

Rajasthan, Punjab, Pondichery, Madhya Pradesh and Haryana are average achievers, while Chhattisgarh, Daman and Diu, Himachal Pradesh, Meghalaya, Mizoram, Orissa, Tripura and Uttaranchal figure in the under-achievers category.

The bottom of the list — termed as laggards — comprises Arunachal Pradesh, Bihar, Dadra and Nagar Haveli, Jammu and Kashmir, Jharkhand, Lakshadweep, Manipur, Nagaland and Sikkim.

“Southern and western states are leading in terms of e-readiness,” says the report, which ranks the states in terms of a composite e-readiness index calculated by assigning specific weights to six parameters — network access, network learning, network society, network economy, network policy and e-governance. The researchers also looked into various projects as case studies to assess the states’ actual preparedness at the ground level.

And Bengal’s performance is nothing but average in almost all the categories except for network policy, where the state figures in level 2, behind Maharashtra, Chandigarh, Tamil Nadu, Karnataka, Goa and Gujarat.

But the better performance in terms of telecommunications and IT trade policy gets overshadowed by the state’s poor ranking in network economy, which takes into account employment opportunities in the Information, Communication and Technology (ICT) sector in Bengal.

The findings of the report contest the government’s claim of state-of-the-art training facilities in the state and clearly indicate that availability of quality manpower is a concern for IT companies.

In the network learning category that focuses on educational institutions and development of workforce for the ICT sector, Bengal ranks after Chandigarh, Maharashtra, Delhi, Karnataka, Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh, Goa and Gujarat.

The state fares poorly in the network economy category — meaning employment opportunities in the ICT sector — and is placed at level 5 behind Maharashtra, Tamil Nadu, Karnataka, Uttar Pradesh and Andhra Pradesh.

Despite the average ranking that the report has given to the state, the Bengal government is confident that the flow of investments in the ICT sector will continue to grow. “The report talks about the state’s e-preparedness and one can’t link investments with it. Bengal is indeed an attractive place to set up IT shops. Even a Nasscom report says that,” said D.P. Patra, IT secretary, West Bengal.

Commenting on the state’s performance in areas like training and education, spread of technology in the society and employment opportunities, he said: “We started late but we are fast catching up with the so-called progressive states in the country. The report highlights the state’s achievements, too.”

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