Tuesday 20 October 2020

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Infrastructure | InfoTech

Khalap plans Intelligent Goa

 

Caught up between Cyberabad and Silicon city in the South and IT-rich Mumbai-Pune and Postira project of Gujarat in the North, Goa plans to march ahead with a new slogan - the Intelligent State, to create its own space in the global village.

"Keeping excellence as a paramount objective, our aim is to catch up and rise beyond the other states within a span of three years from now", states Ramakant Khalap, the information technology minister.

Prepared by the infotech advisory council headed by CSIR chairman Dr Raghunath Mashelkar, Khalap has tabled a seven-page policy document - Vision Infotech Goa - in the Assembly, which could be termed as the ultimate dream of India.

It's different because the plan is for the whole state, inclusive of remotest villages, most of which are already connected with optical fibre cable network. While the Goa Telecom is working towards its further upgradation, the IT ministry has pulled up its sleeves.

"Goa has natural factors favourable for IT enabled services", claims Khalap, pointing at its highest literacy rate and a very large percentage of the population conversant with English and other languages. "It can make Goa a front runner", he feels.

The objective is to create a fully e-governed, information-rich state with real-time access to information, on-line commercial transactions, state-of-the-art communications and industrial infrastructure, states the five-tier policy document.

The first and foremost emphasis is thus on education, making IT a compulsory subject from 8th standard onwards, besides formulating special streams at higher secondary as well as graduation level. The Goa University also plans to increase its strength in engineering and MCA.

Khalap has in fact already begun talks with IIIT, Allahabad, requesting the prestigious institution to make Goa part of its campus. This is the only way to overcome the scarcity of IT experts in the tourist state and utilising the local talent to the fullest extent, he opines.

He has also devised a special package, offering state equity into any private IT firm @ Rs 50,000 per job created for a Goan, ensuring local employment. It would be taken back after three years, to re-invest it in a new firm.

Creation of Unique Selling Position for IT enabled service is also thought of carefully, in order to attract business from even the neighbouring states. Besides setting up special IT parks and habitats, the authorities would also permit setting up establishments in residential and rural areas.

The state thus also proposes rebate in stamp duty for acquiring premises, increasing floor area ratio to additional 50 per cent, top priority for power connection, permitting three shifts for gents and ladies subject to proper security and changes in labour laws.

"In addition to hardware and software manufacturing units, there could be value addition through processing studios and usage of multimedia services in the communication industry, media, films and TV", states Khalap.

The plan is to make special budgetary provision of around Rs 15 to 20 crore, to provide venture capital to support first generation technocrats and entrepreneurs. To make the old proposal of the IT habitat near Goa University at the outskirts of Panaji a reality, talks have begun with Singapore-based Jurong Town Corporation as well as L & T and Tatas.

Yet another mega project is a cyber city near proposed international airport on the northern border. Tying up with the existing tourism industry, the city would provide world-class infrastructure facilities including convention centres, hospitality and entertainment and processing studios, attracting international conventions and delegates.

The process of e-governance however begins from March onwards, setting aside 10 per cent budget of each government department for its total computerisation. Khalap plans to make information of all revenue-related departments available on-line by the year end while completing the whole e-governance process in two years.

He also plans to immediately set up IT kiosks in all the 11 talukas and take it to panchayat level subsequently, making information as well as services accessible to the citizens along with prompt online response from the concerned officials.

Though it sounds like a dream, Goa could make it a reality considering its semi-urban nature in the countryside, provided it is strongly supported by political stability and sincere efforts on the parts of the politicians - a rare species in Goa nowadays.


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