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Bengal faces 5-year climb to elite infotech club

New Delhi, April 28: West Bengal is five years away from joining the elite club of IT leaders in India — Karnataka, Maharashtra, Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh.

Currently, Bengal has been put in the category of “expectant leaders”, just below the “aspiring leaders” category consisting of Gujarat, Goa, Delhi and Chandigarh.

According to a study titled “India E-Readiness Assessment Report 2003”, Bengal has been placed at level 3 in terms of network access, network learning, network society and e-governance. The state is at level 2 in terms of network policy and level 5 in terms of network economy.

The states have been evaluated in the study — which is the first of its kind to be undertaken in India with World Bank assistance — on the basis of network access, network learning, network society, e-governance, network policy and network economy.

The study has been jointly conducted by the department of information technology, the National Council for Applied Economic Research and the Indian Market Research Bureau.

Sources in department of IT said: “The study involves various components of assistance and the World Bank has contributed about $10 million for the project.

“Most of the states that are in the expectants category will be leaders in five years and those in the aspiring leaders category may reach the top in two to three years.”

According to the introduction to the report by communications and information technology minister Arun Shourie, who was presented a copy on Saturday: “The study has been done for the first time in a systematic and comprehensive manner through World Bank aid. It should provide valuable inputs to top-level decision makers in matters of resource allocation and policy formulation.”

The report has also evaluated the e-readiness of Central ministries and departments in three categories — small, medium and large. The department of administrative reforms and public grievances has bagged the first rank in the small category, the ministry of non-conventional energy has been declared first in the medium category and the department of commerce is the first in the large category.

India has improved its position in e-readiness globally from 54 to 37.

China has also improved its position to 43 from 64. The report quotes a study of the Centre for International Development at Harvard University.

According to the report, network access is gauged on the basis of four indicators — information infrastructure (like teledensity, household with phones, cable TV connection, cellphone per 100 fixed lines phones, Internet connection per 1,000 persons and villages covered by VPTs), Internet affordability (average price per hour of Internet use in main cities and number of cellular operators), hardware and software (hardware PC penetration-households) and service support (telecom staff per 100 lines).

Network learning is based on two indicators — institutions’ access to information communication and technology or ICT (in educational institutions) and developing ICT at work place (percentage of government employees covered by on-line training programme, percentage of IT qualified teachers).

Network society is based on three indicators — people and organisations on-line (number of companies on-line {e-commerce}, household accessing Internet as a percentage of phones and computers), locally relevant content (number of government websites, does local language interface exists, percentage of total local language websites) and ICT in every- day life (households having PC, phone and Internet as percentage of total number of households).

Network policy has been evaluated on telecommunications and ICT trade policy followed by the state government and has 16 parameters:

— have the state level telecom issues been addressed

— taxation and e-commerce

— is there an IT policy

— is there a section enabling, regulatory, legal, intellectual property and ICT policy

— is there frequent revision of IT policy

— sales tax concessions to telecom and ICT companies

— provision for deferred taxes, dedicated infrastructure for ICT firms

— does cyber law exist

— is recruitment of IT professionals feasible

— availability of special rates for Internet access

— are subsidised utilities provided to ICT firms

— are there incentives for software companies

— the total number of initiative taken for telecom regulation, ICT trade policy

E-governance rating is based on six indicators — special efforts (rural connectivity, ICT application in agriculture, health services, transportation, energy and trade), e-services (is there a political stability in the state, does the government follow programme evaluation review technique for new ventures, have the government employees’ records been computerised and e-governance project completed in one year); government preparedness (e-procurement and do the facilities like land registration, stamp paper registration, utilities billing, crime registration, municipality registration available); infrastructure (does the government have its Internet network); data systems (have the land record and movable property records computerised); and leadership awareness (is there a separate ministry of ICT, IT training for senior civil servants, total funds of HRD on computerisation).

The last parameter — network economy — has been based on ICT employment opportunities like number of IT parks, floor area, sales turnover, companies using facilities and employment in IT parks.

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