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Wednesday, October 17, 2001

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Karnataka keen on promoting computer hardware base

By S.K. Ramoo

BANGALORE, OCT. 16 The Karnataka Information Technology Minister, Prof. B.K. Chandrashekar, who is largely instrumental for the landmark legislation on the Right To Information for the promotion of openness and transparency in the Government functioning, has ``bolstered'' Information Technology-related activities in Karnataka in less than a month of taking over as Minister.

Prof. Chandrashekar, a former professor of law at the Indian Institute of Management, Bangalore, was also a UGC professor at the National Law School, India University, Bangalore. He studied at Leeds University and obtained his D.Phil. from Oxford University, U.K. He is currently engaged in formulating a blueprint for the network of computerised Rural Information Kiosks for the provision of vital information to the rural population.

In an interview to The Hindu, he said his next priority was to promote the application of IT- related services to the State industrial sector for improving the quality of life and boosting industrial productivity.

The Government was keen to promote computer hardware base in the State, where professionals should go in for systems architecture and for providing total solutions to reach the high end of the IT expressway. He felt India should catch up with China in the hardware sector. The Information Technology department would formulate a long-term strategy for the promotion of e-commerce and e-governance.

The department's next objective would be the networking of professional colleges and other educational institutions in a phased manner. For stimulating computerisation in Government departments and to enable small and medium IT companies tap this market, the department has introduced a procedure for the supply of 15 categories of IT goods and services. Two video conference studios would be set up here for the promotion of marketing avenues for the companies. The department would work in tandem for the execution of administrative reforms for improving the efficiency of departments and public utilities.

He said there was a strong feeling among various IT industry associations that the Government had hastily imposed a four per cent sales tax on computer software, when Andhra Pradesh and Tamil Nadu had not done so, and 12 per cent luxury tax on electronic goods, including IT products, which would be detrimental to the image of IT capital. There should be total tax exemption for export-oriented IT units.

Prof. Chandrashekar said the facilities at the planned Centre for Technology Excellence to be jointly established by Frenhaufer Institute, Berlin, and the State Industries and Commerce department, would be utilised for supporting Applications Service Providers (ASP) for enabling e-commerce in non-IT sectors. Karnataka was in the forefront of the IT revolution as it registered software exports worth Rs. 7,475 crores during 2000- 2001, which was 73 per cent increase over the previous year's figures. The exports of the hardware segment touched Rs. 357 crores, which was an 83 per cent increase compared to the previous year.

The proposed IT corridor in and around here was making progress. Karnataka was the first State to formulate a comprehensive IT policy and the Millennium Biotechnology Policy. Under the latter, an Agriculture Biotechnology Park at the University of Agricultural Sciences at Dharwad and a Marine Biotechnology Park at Karwar were planned. This was in addition to a sprawling biotechnology park proposed at Bangalore.

He said measures were underway for the exemption of IT companies from furnishing unwarranted multiple entries and registers. The Labour department had already initiated measures for the exemption of It companies from the purview of the Industrial Employment (Standing Orders) Act, 1946. He said he would initiate talks with trade unions for the introduction of flexible hours of work for the IT industry professional and to enable woman personnel to work during night, following provision of adequate safety and transportation.

The Government was hopeful that the State's software exports would meet the target of Rs. 11,000 crores by the end of 2002 and was optimistic that it would fulfil the projected target of Rs. 17,000 crores during 2002-2003. He said the Software Technology Park of India located at Bangalore was the biggest in the country, contributing more than 50 per cent of the share of software exports. Sixty per cent of SEI Level 5 certified companies of the world were located here, making it the global IT quality hub.

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