IT Taskforce
Basic Background  Report
9th June 1998


 

XII   IT SPREAD & IT AWARENES

There is a case for concerted drive for generating Information Technology awareness among the public and the industry. The approach to Information Technology diffusion should be multi-pronged with extensive coverage on the media, shared costs of training programmes for the public and industry, coupled with availability of affordable hardware. The implementation of demonstration projects that visibly improve the quality of service delivery and convenience for the citizen could contribute substantially to public awareness.

Undoubtedly, for sustaining software exports, a vibrant domestic market is required. Until and unless, we create and use applications, in the domestic market, it is not possible for India to truly become a global leader. Moreover, ultimately the growth in the domestic market fuels the export engine. To create a vibrant domestic market would require the following:

• Computers and INTERNET in every school and college of the country in the next five years. This could be done at the cost of about Rs.2000 crore spread over next five years.
• Value Added Network Services (VANS)

Government should encourage the setting up of value added network services spanning both the government and the private sectors. While providing delivery of services, use of variety of technologies and solutions could be explored. These could include home based computers, ATMs, electronic kiosks, telephones, smart cards, etc. Such networks could substantially promote government’s efforts to provide a `one-stop non-stop’ interface with the public. Value added network services would require a high degree of integration in order to ensure democratic accountability, security of information, privacy and equity.

The Government should devise special incentives for promoting delivery of value added network services to citizens.

Awareness Creation Strategy

Objective: To make IT a mass movement. Towards that end,

1. To enlarge and deepen awareness in all sections of people about how IT is transforming the world and how it can change their individual and national life for the better.
2. To lend a sharp aspirational and operational focus to the existing awareness so that it serves as a strong motive force driving the Policy towards its frictionless and speedy implementation.

Some Ideas for communication

• Prime Minister's appeal - in the form a Vision Statement - to be broadcast over TV, Radio and advertised through the press.

• Shri Jaswant Singh's message informing the people about the Task Force and eliciting response from all those interested in contributing to the formulation of the National Informatics.

• Powerful ad bits on TV and radio which highlight the benefits of IT for the common man (example: transforming today's STD booths into 'Information Kiosks' with facilities for e-mail, voice mail, etc.), its potential for creating jobs and wealth, and how IT can make India a strong economic power.

• The same message to be advertised through the print media (At material to be designed and prepared by professionals, but released through DAVP).

• Creating a hype about IT by using popular icons like Sachin Tendulkar.

• Targeted communication on the benefits of IT. Examples: for small and medium enterprises (SMEs) as a productivity-enhancer; for the police force as an efficiency-enhancer; for commercial establishments like shops (initiatives like bar coding, online linkage to suppliers and retail outlets, linkage to banks and sales tax office) to achieve faster transactions and plug tax evasion, etc.

• Poster and essay competition at the national, State, District and City/Town levels to tap the interest in IT in the student community.

• A communication exercise directed at present and managements of educational institutions.

• Outdoor advertising on government-owned hoardings as well as on private hoardings through industry sponsorships.

• A letter from the Chairman, Shri Jaswant Singh, to all the Indian missions abroad urging them to effectively communicate India's IT initiatives.

• A communication exercise directed at Non-Resident Indians

• A letter from the Prime Minister (or Task Force Chairman, Shri Jaswant Singh) to all the Government employees to use IT as a tool and make administration people-friendly. This letter can be in the form of a well designed poster to be put up at all the Government offices.

• To declare 1999 as the Year of Information Technology

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Suggested Action:

1. Engage a communication consultancy

2. Create a single Vision Slogan around which all communication can be woven.

3. Within the Secretariat of the Taks Force, we should have one or two communication professionals (preferably IT journalists) working for the next three months.

Electronic Commerce

While electronic commerce was virtually zero at the start of the decade, it has now reached about US$ 10 billion now. However, the value of transactions is set to reach US$ 300 billion by the year 2001, according to a study by the WTO. The number of INTERNET users is likely to increase from 78 million in 1997 to about 280 million (5 percent of the world’s population) by the year 2000. E-commerce is likely to transform the very structure of some industries, such as finance and air travel.

Increasingly the development of electronic marketplaces will become an intrinsic feature of any government’s success in a global economy. Electronic commerce allows efficient interactions among customer, suppliers and development partners cutting down on transaction time and reducing the costs of doing business. It is believed that a majority of companies and organisations in the US and Canada may conduct business via the INTERNET in five years.

The role of government will be to enable its business community to obtain the most valuable information and apply it in a timely manner to the production and sale of goods and services. However there are a number of legal issues related to E-commerce which need to be immediately addressed. Issues relating to taxation of goods and services traversing over electronic networks have to be resolved without further delay.

Bar coding

For promoting the effective use of information technology it is also necessary that we encourage bar coding of commodities and products. Bar coding can help in using IT solutions for streamlining the entire value chain. It would be desirable to make bar coding a mandatory requirement for goods produced in the country in a phased manner.

While adopting bar coding we must follow international conventions (e.g. Belgium based EAN International standards) on bar coding so that our products conform to internationally accepted standards.

Bar Coding for every item sold in the country must be made nearly compulsory over say a 5-year period. In order to achieve this quickly, the equipment installed my be treated as 17 equipment and given all the concessions like no customs duyt, no sales tax, excise duty or any other taxes on PCs and associated equipment like printers, modems etc.

Scheme for Multipurpose tele-info centres

Teleinfocentres

For quite some time (about two decades at least) it will not be possible to provide either telephones or INTERNET or other information services universally i.e. to more than 90% of the homes as many cannot afford private subscriptions. It is, therefore, necessary to provide them on a public access basis, just like the STD/ISD public telephones. There are more than 600,000 of these, half of them in the villages. We should convert as many of these as possible into Public Tele Info Centres

Some twenty years ago the Scandinavian countries introduced the concept of multipurpose community teleinfocentres as a means of improving access to telematics in rural and isolated areas. Community Teleinfocentres are typically multipurpose centres providing IT and telecommunication facilities, user support and training for members of a usually remote and isolated community who cannot afford such facilities on an individual basis and/or do not have the skills to use such tools. Teleinfocentres are now common in remote areas of Australia, Canada, UK, Ireland and the USA. Brazil has plans to establish several hundred teleinfocentres in the next few years (3000 by 2004).

Teleinfocentres range from telekiosks with only phone and fax facilities to multipurpose centres equipped with computers, printer, photocopier etc. The latter provide access to data networks (e.g. INTERNET) for email, file transfer, access to electronic libraries and databases, government and community information, systems market and price information, environment watch, etc. as well as facilities and equipment for teletraining and telemedicine.

Multipurpose Teleinfocentres :- An experiment sponsored by ITU is taking place in Rajkot district in Gujarat where multipurpose teleinfocentres would be installed at 12 places. This would focus on tele medicine tele education and also tele administration especially programme connected with the alleviation of poverty. Depending on the success of these teleinfocentres, the concept for the community teleinfocentres can be vigorously promoted throughout the country.

Special scheme for converting STD/ISD booths into Teleinfocentres

We have a widespread network of public telephone booths. These booths cover both the urban and the rural sectors. Since ISD and STD facilities are being extended to more and more locations throughout the country, it would be worthwhile to draw up a special programme for equipping such booths with low cost computers and dial up modems. Such a network could provide access to INTERNET, email, and voice mail to begin with. Banks can be encouraged to finance such investments and a suitable scheme under self-employment programmes could be worked out to encourage the upgradation of STD/ISD booths to Teleinfocentres.

As many of the 6,00,000 STD/ISD telephone booths which are attended should be upgraded and transformed into phoic telecommunications-information centrs (PTICs) by replacing or adding to existing telephones a multi-media PC. These may be given ISDN lines. The booth operators may be allowed to offer the following services:

- Telephony
- Electronic text mail (E-Mail) and Voice mail (V-Mail)
- FAX
- INTERNET service and
- Desk top video-conferencing

They should not be required to have any licence or pay licence fees. They may just register themselves as information retailers. Voice-mail should be provided to citizens as a substitute for telephony to those people who can’t subscribe to a private telephone. Together with the call making facility, the V-mail would enable to message and be messaged V-Mail may even merit public support i.e. below-cost pricing/tariffs. The teleinfo centres will enable India to provide universal access to several types of telecom and information services becoming available on the INTERNET. Desk-top video conferencing on ISDN lines from teleinfo centres will cut down travel of persons between cities. Universal service (defined as more than 90% of homes having a telephone and or PC) can not be dreamt for quite some time because of our low per capita income.

The public telephones upgraded as Public teleinfocentres will comprise of multimedia PC, an ISDN line, INTERNET access and desktop video camera. The cost of upgradation depending upon how many facilities we want to give may range from Rs.100,000/- to Rs.500,000/-. By this process, we would be leap-frogging into the 21st Century with the most modern variety of telecom and information services accessible to every citizen in India. The PT booths are already manned through Commissions paid by DOT.

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