By CA Sherry Samuel Oommen & CA Balakrishnan K
The first draft of the Kerala IT Policy 2011 reminded me of a very famous quote by Bill Gates who said “Technology is just a tool. In terms of getting the kids working together and motivating them, the teacher is the most important.” The past few years have witnessed the Kerala Governments taking certain strong initiatives to promote IT and IT enabled services.
The first draft of the IT Policy has had mixed reactions from the experts in the IT field. One of the major criticisms drawn against the IT Policy was in relation to the defining statement made in the policy to the extent that one of the differentiators Kerala offers is the cost factor. The IT Policy claims the startup and operational costs are in Kerala is one of the lowest in India less than 50 per cent and the rentals/real estate costs less than 60 per cent of those in other major IT parks in the country and that the power and water tariffs are also one of the lowest in the country. The authenticity of this claim has been widely disputed by experts in the field.
Major Features of the Policy
The vision statement of the Kerala IT Policy has been “Knowledge based economy with Global Opportunities” with focus by leveraging on growth of investment and development of ICT infrastructure along with effective deployment of IT facilities through creation of a digitally literate Kerala. Some of the salient features of the policy include the following:
Policy, Transparency and Service delivery drives: The major initiatives in this regard include development of a proper system for e- waste management and to ensure effective data sharing amongst various Government departments by using cost effective technologies such as cloud computing which has been successfully implemented across India. The Policy also proposes initiatives to encourage foreign strategic collaboration with other countries and establishing multinational funds to promote investment in Research and development activities.
The most welcome step in this regard has been the commitment to deliver up to date information on the activities of the government on its website. All Government Orders and Gazette notifications will be made available in the State Portal as and when they are issued. All Contracts and Agreements signed by the Government will also be available in the State Portal. The citizens can also file online RTI request and this does definitely portray a positive step to ensure transparency in the operations of the State Government which is definitely a bold move.
The citizens can also now pay for Government Services online and the IT Policy also proposes enrolment of citizens to the National UID database which will be taken up in a phased manner.
Initiatives to encourage Quality Human Resources: The IT Policy, recognizing the paucity of skilled Human Resources in Kerala has traced the problem to the fact that there is no dearth of talent but the need of the hour is in improving the quality of Human Resources in terms of communication skills and domain knowledge. Thus the Policy proposes to encourage students to take up post graduation through attractive fellowships and by providing facilities for lectures by specialists which can also be arranged through video linking facility.
It is also proposed to include industry representations in the syllabus committee and to promote faculty development programme in universities which is definitely a positive move since the same would help in unifying standards and enhancing employability skills across the state. It has also been proposed to deliver entrepreneurship skill development programmes to the rural population through the Akshaya e – centres which would help in bridging the urban rural divide.
ICT and the Industry: The IT Policy also proposes to introduce various initiatives to promote Kerala as the most preferred IT destination of the country. This includes creation of world class infrastructure and cost effective workspace for the IT/ ITES sector necessary for attracting global investments and including providing financial assistance to encourage entrepreneurship especially among women entrepreneurs and SC/ STs. The positive steps in this regard include the proposal to encourage investments by way of Public Private Partnerships in the infrastructure sector, simplification of labour laws for the for the IT and ITES sectors and promotion of growth of the micro IT firms. It is expected that the current system of self certification of various Registers and Forms for compliance with various Labour laws as existing in the IT Policy 2007 would continue.
Cochin and Trivandrum have been identified as the best of the Tier – II destinations for the ICT sector. The IT Policy proposes to take advantage of the locational benefits of these cities through aggressive marketing and branding at an international level. The Technology Business Incubation center which runs in collaboration with Department of Science and Technology is one of the successful models and has contributed for entrepreneurship promotion in a big way. The IT Policy proposes to improve the facilities in these centres to encourage research activities.
Considering that the growth of real estate and infrastructure is co terminus with the development of IT hubs emphasis has also been given to the introduction of Rural IT hubs to promote investment in the rural areas. The focus would also be on the development of an eco friendly infrastructure.