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Monday, Jul 22, 2002

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`Smaller towns are emerging markets for IT industry'

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THE IT success in India till date is the success of five per cent of its population, in other words those who had working knowledge, if not a command over the English language.

The industry is yet to address the need of the remaining 95 per cent of the population such as developing standard fonts and keyboards catering to regional languages.

There was an urgent need to push IT to smaller towns. If not the entire future of the home-grown IT industry, at least a significant portion of it could depend on this emerging market, said Mr Vinnie Mehta, Executive Director, Manufacturing Association for Information Technology (MAIT), while delivering the keynote address at a national conference on `IT Industry in India — Challenges and Opportunities', held here on Saturday.

In most countries, he said, the Government is the biggest consumer. There is a need for low-cost solutions and usage in the Government.

Nearly 60 per cent of the IT users in China come through direct buying by the Government or State-owned enterprises, the equivalent of PSUs in India, he added.

Mr Mehta said the opening up of IT in China offered tremendous opportunity for the Indian industry in areas such as software education and training, ERP software, e-commerce applications, electronic payment and on-line shopping. The other area of significant potential for the software companies was in the Chinese telecom sector, he said.

Mr M Sahu, Managing Director of the Gujarat Informatics Ltd (GIL), said the Government of Gujarat had made the environment conducive for e-governance with over 33,000 km of OFC network already being laid in the State.

The State secretariat at Gandhinagar had been connected with all district and taluka head quarters through GSWAN, a wide area network. It was time the industry focus was turned on the Government sector and second rung of the industry, Mr Sahu said.

Mr Ranbir Singh, General Manager, Wipro e-Peripherals (WeP), said that although the country has technology to develop vernacular language software what it lacked was applications for local languages. He cited the example of Indian Railways, which invited any company to develop Hindi fonts in the existing system.

But, it was calculated that the speed of the printer would fall to one-tenth.

Mr Lalit Yagnik, Director, IBM India Ltd (e-Business Software Centre), said the country needed e-governance because the Governments are the central players in the new economy. They set the climate for wealth creations and economic growth as well as cause economic stagnation.

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