Guwahati, Sept. 7: Dispur has asked an international IT firm, Orange Business Services Limited, to study the feasibility of sourcing broadband Internet services to Assam from Cox’s Bazar in Bangladesh.
This was revealed by Mukunda Pujari, a senior consultant to the state government on the National e-Governance Plan, while speaking at the session, Digital Northeast: The Way Forward, on the concluding day of NICT 2013 here today. He said the firm would soon be issued a work order to carry out the feasibility study within a year.
“Direct connectivity with Cox’s Bazar will help us provide better bandwidth to IT companies at rates which are 20 to 25 per cent cheaper. It will help us improve our connectivity and attract investments as well,” Pujari said.
The Northeast currently sources Internet connectivity through gateways in Mumbai and Chennai.
There is severe bandwidth loss in the process that involves a network traversing several thousand kilometres. Cox’s Bazar, on the other hand, is just a few hundred kilometres away.
The Assam government had moved the Centre in 2011 for setting up an Internet gateway in Guwahati with connectivity from Cox’s Bazar. It had reasoned that the gateway was necessary to attract investments to the state’s IT sector, which is yet to pick up owing to poor Internet connectivity.
“Once the new gateway is in place, Assam and the northeastern states will not only get better connectivity but will also be able to provide Internet services to neighbouring countries like Bhutan and Myanmar. Even Odisha can avail the benefit from us. The Centre, DoNER ministry, North Eastern Council and all states of the region should pursue the matter,” Pujari said.
He said better broadband connectivity for the region was crucial to providing services to companies setting up businesses in the IT park coming up in Guwahati. The government had sanctioned Rs 1,200 crore for the park, which is expected to provide employment to around 5,000 youths.
IT expert Jaijit Bhattacharya also emphasised on building IT infrastructure to ensure a connected Northeast, which can, in turn, boost the region’s economy. “The northeastern states, including Assam, produce bamboo in large quantities and have great tourism potential. But do we have a network in place to enable our tour guides to stay connected with each other? Do we have the technology to support the bamboo industry like China does?” he asked.
Amtron managing director Dinesh Shankar Pegu said people should be educated about information and communication technology to bridge the digital gaps in the Northeast.
In the session, Fuelling the Economy through an IT-enabled Educative Drive, Assam Institute of Management director and ONGC chair professor N.N. Sarma said organisations need to penetrate rural areas and replicate private sector companies to enable people to take advantage of information technology.
“The SBI had carried out a parivartan (change) drive to empower people with the tools of technology while ITC’s e-Choupal project is another example of how IT is penetrating rural areas. IT education has a multiplier effect in terms of reaching out to all sectors of the economy. So government departments need to adopt such IT-enabled educative drives that will fuel economic growth,” Sarma said.
Sukumar Nandi, deputy director and professor, computer science & engineering, IIT Guwahati, spoke on how the IT and IT-enabled services sectors had contributed immensely to the country’s economic growth since 1998.
Amitabha De, director, Rajiv Gandhi Indian Institute of Managament, Shillong, who chaired the session, said, “The service sector accounts for two-thirds of India’s GDP, of which 9 per cent comes from IT.”
Expressing concern at the shortage of teachers in educational institutions, he said, “There is a huge shortage of teachers in the country and the only way out is to resort to greater use of information technology in education.”