Minister Sachin wants to ‘Pilot’ IT revolution in northeast (Interview-I)

New Delhi, March 7 (IANS) The government has begun an ambitious programme to wire up the entire northeast and remote border regions with telecom, wimax and broadband connectivity and unleash an IT revolution in the region, says Minister of State for IT and Communications Sachin Pilot.

“I believe that the northeast can become a big centre for attracting investments from the private sector – in business process outsourcing (BPOs), knowledge process outsourcing,” Pilot, 32, told IANS during an exclusive interaction at the IANS office here.

“Young people there have a lot of talent and are easier to train and impart skills to for this kind of work. If we can have rural BPOs then I am sure we can have BPOs in the northeast,” he added.

A bulk of the money under what is called universal service obligation fund, collected by the government from private players to meet the demands of rural connectivity, will be deployed in the northeast, he said.

At the start of this fiscal, more than Rs.18,000 crore ($3.6 billion) was available under this fund.

On a mission to do a “lot more” in the northeast that “has not been done so far”, Pilot said Assam, for example, will see optical fibre cables laid across the state — seen as a must for large data transfers required by such service providers.

“We are launching optical fibre cables at the panchayat level in Assam soon. This will be the first state in India to have it,” Pilot said, adding Wimax services had already been unveiled there last month.

“We launched Wimax in Chaygaon, on the outskirts of Guwahati in Assam. It’s a wireless, high speed internet broadband connectivity — such that people living in a radius of 15 kilometres can access the internet easily,” he said.

Moving beyond Assam, Pilot said the government is also planning a software parks project at Itanagar in Arunachal Pradesh, which will be an export-oriented scheme for developing computer software and extending related professional services.

“I have already met the chief minister of Arunachal Pradesh. We are hoping to start this project soon. The state will then have a lot more money from the government of India, which it can’t afford now,” he said.

India’s northeastern region covers the states of Assam, Meghalaya, Manipur, Mizoram, Tripura, Nagaland, Arunachal Pradesh and Sikkim.

Pilot said he is also planning to give the satellite phone facilities to villages in the northeast, which are cut off from others due to their location, along with a much-subsidised tariff.

“There are some places of Arunachal Pradesh, which are 12,000 feet to 14,000 feet high — no spectrum, no mobile phones. Therefore, besides the paramilitary forces, I am trying to give satellite phones to these villages and reduce the call charges,” he said.

In Sikkim, Pilot said, the IT ministry has helped in the setting up of a small business process unit and launched 3G services through the state-run Bharat Sanchar Nigam Ltd.

“The chief minister of Sikkim wanted to set up a 50-seat unit through an entrepreneur. So, we not only gave them connectivity but also gave it to them at one-fourth the cost. We also launched 3G services there,” the minister said.

“I want that all the states of the northeast to feel as involved in what’s happening in New Delhi and Mumbai in terms of new innovative ideas.”

–Indo-Asian News Service


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