Technologically yours

DQW Bureau
13 Apr 2009
New Update


India is bracing itself for one of its most anticipated polls. From superstar

candidates to hate speeches, this election carries with it an added tone of

urgency. Given the current economic downturn, everyone is looking for a solution

and our political parties, in their manifestos, are promising us just that.

While housing solutions, tax cuts and changes in national health policies are on

top call of most parties; the need for IT and its proper implementation is also

gaining momentum.

Five years of IT

The IT performance of the Congress-led UPA government in the last five years

has left a lot to be desired. The launch of the National e-Governance Plan (NeGP),

which aimed to bring together all the individual e-government initiatives under

one roof, lacked a clear vision and direction. The State Wide Area Network

(SWAN) was only launched in a handful of states and the State Data Centers (SDCs)

never really took off.

The last five years were extremely important for the IT industry of India.

Instead of aiding the situation, the UPA government created a lot of problems by

stamping a heavy duty on the packaged software front. The ruling government kept

tweaking around with the duty, making it worse by raising it to the range of

eight to

12 percent. The packaged industry market in India has almost gone comatose,

owing to the exorbitant increase in piracy, which was the result of the

imposition of heavy duty. Packaged software taxation has seriously impacted SMBs

and even hampered the government's dream of bridging the digital divide, given

that the Indian market is a price-sensitive one. Both consumers and

price-conscious SMBs were forced to rethink software purchase decisions.




Agenda 2009

Priding themselves as the first political party that pledged IT revolution

under the leadership of Rajiv Gandhi, Indian National Congress is promising to

further spread IT in upcountry locations. According to the manifesto, the party

aims to connect every village to broadband in the next three years. This will

help locate new, non-agricultural jobs in villages and open vast new

opportunities for the rural youth. The party also plans to make use of the array

of IT services already available in the country to provide each citizen with a

unique identity card, after the publication of the national population register

in 2011.

With BJP's Hindutva seemingly gone awry, the party is luring GenY with their

ambitious poll manifesto, with a large portion of the contents dedicated to the

IT sector. Though its key areas of importance remain good governance,

development and security, the saffron party is placing the IT sector in a very

high helm. ICT was a major area of policy thrust of the BJP-led NDA government

also when it had ruled the full term between 1999 and 2004. Now, the party seeks

to assure people that it will pursue it with the same vigor and purpose, if it

returns to power. According to the manifesto, a National Education Commission

will be set up to accentuate a comprehensive policy for the 21st century and a

whopping 1.2 crore IT-enabled jobs in villages and computers to schools and

colleges at affordable prices will be made available. Like Congress, the party

promises to set up broadband connections in all villages across the country and

it also plans to establish a countrywide system of multi-purpose national

identity cards (MNIC). The BJP also plans to connect mobile subscribers to

Internet users, making video conferencing an easy and cheap option.

Additionally, in its scheme of things to have are all courts computerized and

networked to improve speed and efficiency in the judicial system.


Adding to the IT promise, CPI(M) is offering some specific relief packages

for affected sectors in the Industry, while NCP, too, says that that carrying

Internet service to people will be prioritized.

While there is no doubt that IT is being given a lot of importance in the

party manifestos, it remains to be seen whether the new government lives up to

its promises. Five years ago, the world economy showed no signs of abating and

no one imagined that nearly two million people in the UK would be unemployed.

With inflation soaring and superpowers struggling to survive, choosing the right

government has become more important than ever.

Pledges are plenty, promises are galore from all political parties - Left,

Right and Center. But the electorate must display more circumspection and wisdom

in picking the right party, and of course, the combination, the colour and

character of which seem to be changing almost everyday. Manifestos are fine, but

it is the delivery intent and mechanism of a party, is most important for the

moment. And if IT features in their plan of action, then it is all the better

for the slowdown in the Indian economy.

Madhura Khasnobis/Nandana Das