IT Taskforce
Information Technology Action Plan


In the history of civilisation, no work of science has so comprehensively impacted on the course of human development as Information Technology (IT). Undoubtedly, IT has been the greatest change agent of this century and promises to play this role even more dramatically in the coming decades. IT is changing every aspect of human life - communications, trade, manufacturing, services, culture, entertainment, education, research, national defence and global security. 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.

For India, the rise of Information Technology is an opportunity to overcome historical disabilities and once again become the master of one's own national destiny. IT is a tool that will enable India to achieve the goal of becoming a strong, prosperous and self-confident nation. In doing so, IT promises to compress the time it would otherwise take for India to advance rapidly in the march of development and occupy a position of honor and pride in the comity of nations.

The Government of India has recognised the potential of Information Technology for rapid and all-round national development. The National Agenda for Governance, which is the Government's policy blueprint, has taken due note of the Information and Communication Revolution that is sweeping the globe. Accordingly, it has mandated the Government to take necessary policy and programmatic initiatives that would facilitate India's emergence as an Information Technology Superpower in the shortest possible time.

This commitment to Information and Communication Technology in the National Agenda for Governance has been forcefully articulated by Prime Minister Shri Atal Bihari Vajpayee on a number of occasions. In his first televised addresss to the Nation on March 25, the Prime Minister declared that promotion of Information Technology would be one of his Government's five top priorities.

In his speech at the CII Annual Session on April 28, 1998, the Prime Minister said: "This is one area where India can quickly establish global dominance. India can be fully competitive in this area with tremendous pay-offs in terms of wealth creation and generation of high quality employment".

The Prime Minister announced at the CII Annual Session the Government's resolve to set up, within 30 days, a National Task Force on Information Technology, which would formulate the draft National Informatics Policy.

Accordingly, the Office of the Prime Minister issued a Notification on 22nd May, 1998 constituting a National Task Force on Information Technology and Software Development. This Task Force is chaired by Shri Jaswant Singh, Deputy Chairman, Planning Commission and co-chaired by Shri N. Chandrababu Naidu, Chief Minister of Andhra Pradesh and Dr. M. G. K. Menon, former Minister of State for Science and Technology. Its members include eminent representatives from the Government, industry and academia.

The Prime Minister has given five main tasks and 15 terms of reference to the IT Task Force (see Annexure). The tasks include recommending, within one month, immediate steps that the Government needs to take to remove bottlenecks in the path of rapid development of IT in India and give a big boost to Indian IT and software industry.

The Task Force has completed its deliberations on this immediate task and is pleased to submit its first report to the Prime Minister. This report, called the Information Technology Action Plan, contains 108 recommendations covering both bottleneck areas and broad promotional measures that are crucial for boosting IT in India.

These recommendations cover a wide spectrum of issues relating to telecommunications, finance, banking, revenue, commerce, electronics, human resource development, defence and rural development. They address critical national needs in the areas of information infrastructure, Internet access, software development and exports, hardware manufacture, electronic commerce, R&D in IT, manpower training and education.

Software exports has received much attention of the Task Force. Recognising India's competitive advantage in this area, the Action Plan has made many recommendations aimed at enabling Indian exporters to capture a large share of the global software market in a short time.

A unique promotional campaign suggested in the report is OPERATION KNOWLEDGE, which aims at universalising IT and IT-based education at all levels of the education pyramid in India.

A notable feature of these recommendations is the conscious effort of the Task Force to give Information Technology a pro-people and pro-development thrust. These recommendations flow from a perspective that India can become a strong IT power only if information technology reaches out to the masses in rural areas and in small towns and if its use in Indian languages can also be given major encouragement.

Taken together, the recommendations in the Information Technology Action Plan significantly broaden and deepen the process of economic reforms by encouraging competition, entrepreneurship and innovation -- the three priniciples which are cardinal for Indiaís progress in the emerging knowledge-driven global economy.

The Task Force is confident that the implementation of these recommendations will send a strong signal to people within India and abroad that India can swiftly ride on the Information Superhighway.

Activities of the Task Force till date

The Office of the Prime Minister issued a Notification on 22nd May 1998 constituting a National Task Force on Information Technology and Software Development. Dr. M.G.K. Menon, Co-Chairperson of the Task Force, Dr. N. Seshagiri, Member-Convener, and Shri Sudheendra Kulkarni of the PMO met Shri Jaswant Singh, Deputy Chairman, Planning Commission and Chairperson of the Task Force on 26th May 1998 for finalising the guidelines regarding the deliberations of the Task Force.

The Task Force created a Web Site on the Internet, with a web-letter from the Chairman, inviting suggestions from IT professionals around the world. On the basis of a number of useful reports on the topic prepared earlier by various organisations like the Planning Commission, Ministry of Commerce, Department of Electronics, NIC, Government of Andhra Pradesh, as well as industry associations like NASSCOM, MAIT and ESC and the suggestions given by the various members of the Task Force, the Member-Convener prepared a Basic Background Report (BR-1) and hoisted the same on the Web. More than 3,000 suggestions have been received on the Web from IT professionals around the world.

The Task Force held a number of preparatory meetings, and several formal and informal meetings with the Ministers concerned and their Secretaries and senior officials as per the following schedule:

26 May, 1998 : Meeting with the Deputy Chairman,Planning Commission & Chair-person of the Task Force
12, 13 & 15 June 1998 : Preparatory meetings in New Delhi under the chairmanship of Professor M.G.K. Menon, Co-Chairperson of the Task Force
16 June 1998 : Meeting in the Department of Telecommunication
18 June 1998 : Meeting with the Chief Minister of Maharashtra, senior officials of the State Government and scientists and academicians and industr representatives in Mumbai
20 June 1998 : Meeting with the Wireless Adviser, Government of India
22 & 23 June 1998 : Meeting with the Minister for Communications
23 June 1998 : Meeting with Chairman, Telecom Commission
24 June 1998 : Meeting with Scientific Adviser to Raksha Mantri & Secretary, Defence (Research)
25 June 1998 : Meeting with Finance Minister
25 June 1998 : Meeting with Chief Minister of Andhra Pradesh & Co-Chairperson of the Task Force
26 June 1998 : Meeting with Finance Secretary
27 June 1998 : Meeting with Finance Secretary
29 June 1998 : Meeting with Finance Secretary
July 1, 1998 : Meeting with Finance Minister
July 1, 1998 : Meeting with Wireless Adviser & Defence Ministry officials

This is the first time in India that representatives of so many ministries, departments, industry associations, business houses, educational institutions and State Governments interacted so intensively and in such a short period of time to cover so many bottleneck and promotional areas in Information Technology. It is also the first time that agreement was reached and concurrence received on most of the points in the Action Plan. This, the Task Force believes, augurs well for its early and effective implementation.

Future Activities

After submission of the first report on bottleneck and immediate promotional issues, the Task Force will begin work on the more substantive work of formulating the draft National Informatics Policy. Towards this end, it will soon set up Working Groups on various specific subjects, on which representatives from Government, industry, academia and other sections of society from across the country will be represented. A few of the Working Groups have already started their work.

The Task Force also plans to identify a large number of national missions which will be so designed as to make visible and catalytic impact on the use of IT in India.

In order to broadbase its consultations, the Task Force has drawn up a plan to visit Bangalore, Hyderabad, Calcutta and Guwahati in the coming weeks. It has already held one such meeting in Mumbai on June 18, 1998.

Within the next ten days, the Task Force will prepare a Vision Statement whose aim will be to excite and energize the people of India, creating the faith in them that Information Technology vitally aids personal growth and national growth. It will also embark on an awareness creation strategy for the effective articulation and dissemination of that Vision.

The Information Technology Action Plan follows.