Minister calls for IT power for India's strategic economic diplomacy

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New Delhi, Sep 19 (UNI) Calling for leveraging India's information technology power for furthering the country's strategic and economic diplomacy, Minister of State for Commerce and Industry Jairam Ramesh today said India must now begin to aggressively use its IT industry to build new economic partnerships in countries that are vital to her interests.

Describing the Ministry of External Affairs' initiative on '' Indian technical and economic cooperation (ITEC) as one of India's most successful foreign diplomacy initiatives since 1964 that offers around 4,000 scholarships every year, he said the time has come to make it an Information Technology- Economic Cooperation (IT-EC).

Addressing the executive board of India's National Association of Software and Service Companies( NASSCOM) here, he pointed out the country's IT capability has had a profound impact on Indo-US relations. ''As the author of Chindia, I have absolutely no doubt that Chinese attitudes towards us underwent a fundamental shift when our IT export industry emerged in the US in such a stunning manner.'' The Indian government has established an IT development centre in Tashkent through Centre for Development of Advanced Computing (C-DAC) as part of its policy to build Indian presence in Central Asia, he added.

Mr Jairam Ramesh said NASSCOM and Ministries of External Affairs and Commerce should work together and through the premier trade body of software industry to enable Indian government to leverage expertise of individual companies.

The Minister quoted approvingly the analysis made by the securities firm CLSA on Indian IT industry to buttress his argument.

The CLSA report said ''20-25 per cent of India's GDP expansion over the next 3-4 years will come from IT; India's IT exports will cross India's oil imports from 2007-08 onwards assuming that oil prices are at around 65 dollars a barrel; IT industry directly and indirectly will pick up a third of the addition to the urban labour force over the next three-four years.'' Over the next three-four years, the IT industry will pick up around 80-85 per cent of India's employable engineers. One in seven income tax payers in the country will be a IT professional by 2010, up from the current status of one in ten, the report added.

However, the Minister expressed concern over the extremely skewed spread of IT industry in the country. Both Kanpur and Kharagpur are almost non-existent on the IT map of India notwithstanding the location of IITs in both the cities, he pointed out.

He said seven cities accounted for 95 per cent of the 32 billion dollar IT exports from in 2006-07. Of these, Bangalore's share was 33 per cent, National Capital Region 15 per cent, Chennai 14 per cent, Hyderabad 13 per cent, Pune 10 per cent, Navi Mumbai 8 per cent and Kokata 2 per cent.

Mr Ramesh said special economic zones (SEZs) also appear to be increasing the digital divide in the country, adding 86 of the 142 notified SEZs are in the IT and ITeS alone.

Projecting the example of Tata Consultancy Service (TCS), which is working to develop Guwahati as an IT location , he urged the industry to spread its wings in areas untouched by the IT revolution. He urged NASSCOM to work proactively with the government to develop the industry in areas which are not on the IT radar. Once IT majors move to such undeveloped areas, the government, too, will be forced to provide and upgrade infrastructure to give an impetus to IT growth, he added.

UNI

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