Vol.No. XLIV 14 June 2000 R.No.5
This service seeks to open a window to India's pride of place--Information Technology. In an amazingly short span of time, India's IT industry has earned global recognition and established itself as the fastest growth sector.
RESEARCH, REFERENCE AND TRAINING DIVISION
(Ministry of Information and Broadcasting)
Information technology, a mix of computers and telecommunications, is concerned with storage, processing and transmission of information which is something people need for their advancement and well being. Information technology has brought the value of information to the level of consciousness. Information is now recognized as one of the three basic elements beside matter and energy that make up largely man-made environment and hence determine the quality of life.
Information as a key factor to the socio-economic progress is increasingly gaining importance. Underlying this transformation is a process of radical technology change. The key issue is not simply the effects of automation based on rapidly developing computer technology. It is that new technologies which process information rather than physical resources provide the means for bringing radical changes in the socio-economic conditions by facilitating access to the information required to raise the productivity of industries and every sector of economy. Information technology has become the essential prerequisite for economic development and social progress.
Today, information has become an integral part of human life. It has a diversified role in socio-cultural, economic and political developments. In a fast developing country like India, availability of the latest information in science and technology and other fields need to be assured in the fastest and simplest forms. This is important because every developmental process depends on the availability of information.
Nature and Role of Information
The word ‘Information’ has been derived from the Latin words ‘formatio’ and ‘forma’ meaning giving shape to something and forming a pattern respectively. Dictionaries define information as an action of telling, or fact of being told of something, - news, intelligence or knowledge.
In the general sense of the term, information is found everywhere and all around us. "Information is the staple diet of the readers of newspapers and mass audiences of the broadcasting media and the cinema. It is directed ceaselessly at those millions of consumers so relentlessly targeted by the advertising industry, and is dispensed round the clock from any number of enquiry desks at railway stations and airports, libraries and similar public or private service institutions".
Role of Information in National Development
It has been already indicated that information is a basic resource for national development. Advancement of modern civilization requires that each member of the society is well-informed in matters relevant to our day-to-day living, because information is the basis of co-operative culture and steady development of the social being. However, an attempt has been made to illustrate it in the following dimensions:
The year 1998 heralded not only the pre-eminence of the services sector but also the key role played by IT within that sector. Information services have become fundamental to the overall growth and development of the US economy. The most remarkable facet of the emerging ‘digital economy’ is of course electronic commerce (e-commerce). The internet, which enables e-commerce, is radically changing not only the way businessmen serve and communicate with their customers, but also the way they manage their relations with suppliers and partners. Both the new internet-based companies and the traditional producers of goods and services are transforming their businessmen processes into e-commerce processes in an effort to lower costs, improve customer service, and increase productivity. The value of e-commerce transactions worldwide is growing exponentially and is expected to reach US $3.2 trillion by the year 2003.
The internet, apart from enabling e-commerce is also contributing to the rapid internationalisation of the services sector. This makes it possible to unbundle the production and consumption of information-intensive service activities. These activities, e.g., computing, accounting, personnel, marketing, distribution, play a fundamental role not only in service industries but also in manufacturing and primary industries.
Information is the basis of education, as William J. Martin rightly puts it: "Information is the life-blood of education. It is an essential ingredient in new ideas, in course content and curriculum development, and in the creation of materials and methods for teaching and learning".
Today, education does not consist only in classroom teaching and learning, but the process also involves outside the classroom to a great extent. Information technology has dramatically altered the educational system. Today in informational terms, education involves the use of the informational goods such as computers, televisions, calculators and radios, etc., for the delivery of software and access to courseware written for specific subject areas. This, in turn, is leading to the awareness of the role of information in everyday life, and a facility in obtaining, evaluating and using it for a wide range of purposes is increasingly felt. Information technology is playing a vital role in shaping the education system and increasing the efficiency in teaching and learning.
The organised generation, smooth transfer and flow of information are important factors in shaping the socio-cultural conditions of a nation. Its dimensions are becoming more and more visible as its impact on the individual and on society as a whole is felt in an increasing measure and in diverse ways. Today, a society is considered civilized and developed when its members are well-informed in their respective fields.
Information is an important factor for raising the cultural standard and effecting an all-round progress of the society. It not only raises the level of intelligence and status of the common man but also to a great extent increases the quantum of the common sense of the average man in the community. Thus, information, in whatever form is generated and recorded, is an ingredient resource for upholding socio-cultural life of a nation.
The role and importance of information in the political life of a nation is equally vital. It will not be a miracle if well-informed politicians bring more reforms and introduce constructive schemes in the society. And of course, the well-informed electorate will elect the right and efficient representatives.
Political education is nothing but simply giving the citizens the right information, telling them what to do and what not to do. Information is an important tool in safeguarding democracy because the greatest threat to democracy like ours comes from ignorance. Information widens the scope of one’s thinking and helps in developing a farsighted attitude which ultimately result in preventing him or her from involving in corruption and other anti-social activities.
One of the major applications of IT for better quality of service to the citizens is Electronic Governance or EG. EG can provide secure, reliable and controlled interface between the government and citizens through computer communication network. EG is more than just citizen service and is a combination of technology, process re-engineering a new style of leadership. Citizens and consumers of government services are now more aware of their rights and they demand access to information and transparency in their dealings.
In the initial stages of introduction of computer culture in office environment, there was apprehension of reduction in employment opportunities. However, time has proved that modernisation of office environment does not necessarily reduce the manpower requirement, but improves the quality of work, increases the output and reduces the time delay. In some cases new job opportunities are created because of large-scale computerisation. A whole new cadre of data-entry operators is created to fulfil such requirements. This realisation has contributed a lot towards Information Technology gaining momentum in India.
Geographical Information System
The Geographical Information System (GIS) is a composite of computer-based tools and methods for integration and spatial data from different sources. It also provides the environment for analysis, modelling and display of data.
GIS is widely used for regional planning, natural resource management, water resource management, etc. It is also used for dissemination of large volume data in simple, presentable format.
Indian IT Scenario
In a very short span of time, India’s IT industry has earned global recognition and established itself as the fastest growth sector. The successes of Indian IT entrepreneurs and professionals, those in India as well as the ones working abroad – have created a new wave of hope, excitement and self-confidence among our talented young men and women.
The engine of growth of the booming Indian IT sector is the software industry, which has grown at an average annual rate of 60 per cent between 1992 and 1999. The Indian software industry, which today employs 1,60,000 professionals, has zoomed from a mere US $20 million 10 years ago to a whopping US $4 billion in 1998-99, of which US $2.6 billion was exported. The industry has clearly emerged as a major export earner for the country, contributing 8 per cent of total merchandise exports. It has also achieved worldwide reputation for providing excellent quality: many local software firms have earned ISO 9000 as well as SEI-CMM certification. Five have reached Level 5 (only nine firms worldwide have reached this level). IT Industry has achieved a compound annual growth rate of 25.5% in production and 43% in exports during 1994-98. Information Technology accounted for 4% and Telecommunications and Electronics accounted for 24.19% of the total foreign direct investment inflow between January 1991-December 1998. The total market capitalization of listed IT companies on 1st Jan 1999 was US $ 4 billion and 21st Feb 2000 stood at US $63 billion. The total market cap of listed Indian companies was US $99 billion. India has achieved this feat by leveraging its most valuable resource: highly skilled manpower. The country today boasts of the second-largest English-speaking pool of scientific manpower in the world and graduates 70,000 computer professionals every year, in addition to the graduates from the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT). Realising the strategic importance of IT for the country, the Indian government has set itself an ambitious target of making India a global IT power and a key contributor to the world IT industry by 2008.
Action Plan for Information Technology
In the history of civilisation, no work of science has so comprehensively impacted on the course of human development as Information Technology (IT). It is breaking old barriers and building new interconnections in the emerging global village. IT has also become the chief determinant of the progress of nations, communities and individuals. On 22 May 1998 Government of India issued a notification constituting a National Task Force on Information Technology and Software Development.
This Task Force was chaired by Shri Jaswant Singh, the then Deputy Chairman, Planning Commission and co-chaired by Shri N. Chandrababu Naidu, Chief Minister of Andhra Pradesh and Dr. M.G.K. Menon, former Union Minister of State for Science and Technology. Its members included eminent representatives from the government, industry and academia. The Information Technology Action Plan, launched on 4 July 1998, aims at transforming every facet of human life in order to create a knowledge-based society in the twenty-first century.
As a first step in that direction, the following revisions and additions were made to the existing policy and procedures for removing bottlenecks and achieving such a pre-eminent status for India: (i) Info-Infrastructure Drive: Accelerate the drive for setting up a World Class Info-Infrastructure with an extensive spread of Fibre Optic Networks, Satcom Networks and Wireless Networks for seamlessly interconnecting the Local Informatics Infrastructure (LII), National Informatics Infrastructure (NII), and Global Informatics Infrastructure (GII) to ensure a fast nationwide onset of the Internet, Extranets and Intranets; (ii) Target ITEX – 50: with a potential two trillion dollar Global IT industry by the year 2008, policy ambience will be created for the Indian IT industry to target for a $50 billion annual export of IT software and IT Services (including IT-enabled services) by this year, over a commensurately large domestic IT market spread all over the country; and (iii) IT for all by 2008: Accelerate the rate of PC/set-top-box penetration in the country from the 1998 level of one per 500 to one per 50 people along with a universal access to Internet/Extranets/Intranets by the year 2008, with a flood of IT applications encompassing every walk of economic and social life of the country.
In order to give a concerted and focused approach to developing this sector further, the Government of India set up a new Ministry of Information Technology (MIT) on 15 October 1999 to be the nodal institutional mechanism for facilitating all the initiative in the Central Government, the State Governments, Academia and the private sector for all-round growth of Information Technology in the country.
Recent Initiatives to Accomplish the Vision
A number of key initiatives have already been taken with regard to the fulfillment of the set vision. This started with the setting up of the National Task Force on Information Technology and Software Development and a Special Subject Group on Knowledge-based industries under the Prime Minister’s Advisory Councils. This has been closely followed by a wide array of policy measures crafted to provide a vibrant enabling environment for the growth of Information Technology in the country. Some of the key initiatives taken relate to financial sector reforms like:
A target of achieving PC penetration of 20 per thousand, TV penetration of 225 and fixed telephony penetration of 125 per thousand has been set to be achieved by the year 2008. The entire effort required would open up widespread opportunities for investment and markets. To achieve the targets, it is estimated that the country would require investment of close to US $16 billion for a total equipment requirement of US $160 billion by the year 2008.
Human Resource Development
The focus of Ministry of Information Technology is on development of globally competitive quality manpower in Electronics, Information Technology and Telecommunications. To meet this objective, the multi-pronged strategy being followed in the Ministry includes:
In collaboration with the Ministry of Human Resource Development, a project has been undertaken for doubling the intake in all Indian Institutes of Technology (IIT), Indian Institute of Science (IIS) and the Regional Engineering Colleges (RECs). Simultaneously, a number of State Governments have started establishing Indian Institute of Information Technology (IIITs). The Ministry of Human Resource Development has also established an Indian Institute of Information Technology and Management at Gwalior and an IIIT at Allahabad. The Ministry of Information Technology is planning to implement IT Enabled Distance Education Programmes in collaboration with leading academic institutions like IITs, IISc, IGNOU, NCST, BITS-Pilani, etc.
Advanced Technology Programme in computer Networking (ERNET)
Education and Research Network has been servicing the Indian Academic and Research Community since 1990. Today, ERNET provides connectivity to over 750 organisations which represent a cross-section of universities, academic institutions, R&D laboratories, some NGOs and has over 80,000 users. It enjoys the reputation of being one of the most competitive networks and internet service provider in the country.
Countrywide terrestrial backbone is being enhanced to 8/32, Mbps data rates with state-of-the-art network infrastructure. ERNET has established a Satellite data Network to complement its terrestrial backbone. More than 100 Time Division Multiplexing (TDM)/Time Division Multiple Access (TDMA)/Very Small Aperture Terminals (VSATs) are operational in the country. Satellite Network is also being upgraded to cater to the ever growing needs of asymmetric Internet traffic. Dedicated Single Channel Per Carrier (SCPCs) channels from 64Kbps to 2Mbps are also being established over this satellite Wide Area Network (WAN).
National Informatic Centre Computer Communication Network (NICNET)
National Informatic Centre (NIC) of the Ministry of Information Technology is a premier organisation in the field of Informatics, Services and Information Technology applications in India. Since its inception, NIC has been playing a pioneering role in propagating IT-led development facilitating rapid economic growth and social transformation in India by setting up a countrywide satellite-based VSAT network (NICNET), first of its kind among the developing countries linking about 640 District Administrations, 26 State Secretariates, and 7 NCT/UT Administrations.
At present NIC is the only government organisation in India offering network services over C band and Ku-band (TDMA, FTDMA and SCPC) VSATs, Wireless Metropolitan Area Networks (MANs) and Local Area Networks (LANs) with NICNET gateway for internet resources, so far as to promote economic, social, scientific and technological activities, and also for ‘macro-economic adjustment programme’ of the Government.
NIC provides state-of-the-art IT solutions for information management, information dissemination, and decision support requirements of the Central as well as the State Governments, the Corporate Sector and the Cooperative Sector. NIC plays an important role in the area of ‘Information for development’, which inter-alia includes:
National Information Infrastructure (NII)
Information infrastructure is vital for the country in view of the tremendous potential of Information Technology as well as the enormous efforts being made in the area by countries around the world. The Ministry of Information Technology has initiated a national focus on National Information Infrastructure with the aim of promoting use and proliferation of Information Technology. Under NII initiatives, a project entitled ‘Development and Deployment of Multipurpose, Multilingual, Multimedia, Scalable Information Warehouse based on Param Openframe Architecture for State-Level Governance of AP’ has been initiated. The project aims at organising the multipurpose household survey data into meaningful scalable information warehouse for providing the decision-makers with relevant data tools. Projects in progress are: A community information network for Vijayawada Municipal Corporation, Development of E-Commerce technology, Tourism Information system and creation of information infrastructure for Sikkim Government. Certain new projects in the field of telephony over Internet, networks security, e-commerce applications and web-enabled database management are likely to be initiated shortly.
Information Technology Bill
The Information Technology Bill was introduced in Lok Sabha on 16 December 1999 and was referred to the Standing Committee. The Bill was passed by Parliament on 17 May 2000.
The IT Bill primarily gives effect to the following: (a) to facilitate electronic communications by means of reliable electronic records; (b) to facilitate electronic transactions in trade and commerce, eliminate barriers to electronic commerce resulting from uncertainties over writing and signature requirements, and to promote the development of the legal and business infrastructure necessary to implement secure electronic records; (c) to facilitate electronic filing of documents with government agencies and statutory corporation, and to promote efficient delivery of government services by means of reliable electronic records; (d) to minimise the incidence of forged electronic records, intentional and unintentional alteration of records, and fraud, forgery or falsification in electronic commerce and other electronic transactions; (e) to help to establish uniformity of rules, regulations and standards regarding the authentication and integrity of electronic records or document; and (f) to promote public confidence in the integrity and reliability of electronic records and electronic commerce, and to foster development of electronic commerce through the use of electronic signatures to lend authenticity and integrity to correspondence in any electronic medium, etc.
The passage of the Information Technology (IT) Bill will give a fillip to India’s exports by way of support to electronic transactions, which have become the backbone of international trade. The use of secure electronic commerce (EC) and electronic data interchange (EDI) transactions provides an important tool to small and medium enterprises (SMEs) to advertise their products and services at the global level, which was otherwise not possible for them due to lack of infrastructure and resources. This will also give a significant boost to the country’s overall exports.
With the onset of economic liberalisation and the objective of exponential export growth, the traditional approaches to information handling had become grossly inadequate. The use of EC and EDI for trade facilitation (TF) is inevitable not only between countries and outside, but also for transacting business and trade within the country. The EC/EDI tool is, therefore, as much relevant to exports as to internal trade. This realisation brings a new dimension to the way we look at TF. It also makes a significant beneficial change in the economy for investment in ED/EDI.
India Vs World: Electronics Industry
Penetration per Thousand of Population
1998-99 Target 2008 1998-99
Penetration of TV 75 225 210
Penetration of Computers 3 20 60
Fixed Telephones 22 125 100
Recognizing these gaps, The IT Task Force has fixed targets both in the hardware and the software sector for the year 2008 as follows-
US$ 87Billion by 2008
$ 50 billion out of production of $ 87 billion
$ 10 billion out of production of $ 30 billion
In brief the sectoral opportunities by the Year 2008 are
Total Market Exports
IT Services $ 38.5 billion $ 23 billion
Software Products $ 19.5 billion $ 8 billion
IT Enabled Services $ 19.0 billion $ 15 billion
E-business $ 10.0 billion $ 4 billion
Total $ 87.0 billion $ 50 billion
Total Equipment Requirement - $160 billion
Components Requirement - $ 60 billion
Investment Requirement - $ 16 billion
(Equipment - $ 13 billion, Components - $ 3 billion)
Software Sector - 2.2 million
Direct Employment - 1.6 million
Indirect Employment - 3.2 million
Total Employment Generation - 7.0 million