Monday, July 9, 2007

Mr MN Vidyashankar (IAS) IT Secretary of Karnataka

MN Vidyashankar took over as the IT Secretary of Karnataka in October 2006. Besides IT, Vidyashankar also holds the post of Secretary for Biotechnology, and Science and Technology. While at Bangalore Development Authority, he was instrumental in implanting the e-Pragathi project aimed at creating multi-utility kiosks across the city for the payment of utility bills. Vidyashankar talks to Sudesh Prasad of Dataquest about the ensuing IT policy and some of the new projects in pipeline, to expand IT beyond Bangalore.

What is the status of the new IT policy of Karnataka?
The vision group is deliberating on it and in our next meeting, we will give a final shape to it. The reason for delay was that there were lot of inputs that came from various stakeholders, and various departments which were in the process of computerization. All the information that we have got is being collated and it should be ready by March end.

What are some of the challenges Karnataka is facing in terms of IT?
The main problem we are facing is that everything is Bangalore-centric. We want to see that the new policy focuses equally on the proliferation of IT to other cities and towns beyond Bangalore. We are in the process of awarding tender for the development of the Bidadi Township for the IT industry which will be one of the largest townships in the country-an area of 10,000 acres, with 25,000 acres of built up space. We have received requests from about 32 developers from India and abroad of which 24 have been short-listed. The Infrastructure Development Corporation of Karnataka is technically scrutinizing these. Then the financial bids will be done and an announcement of final bidders will be made soon after; handing over of the land will take place by April end. Only one developer will be given the entire space, and work will be completed in 18 months in two phases.

'When we were planning Bidadi, we made it a point that it should not be an infrastructure for just plug and play, so we created the model of PPL-plug, play, live and learn. So any IT company which is taking space here should necessarily take space for accommodation of its employees'
How different is the Bidadi project?
When we were planning Bidadi, we made it a point that it should not be an infrastructure for just plug and play, so we created the model of PPL-plug, play, live and learn. So any IT company which is taking space here should necessarily take space for accommodation of its employees. That is a precondition because we don't want to clog Bangalore. There will be schools, colleges, hospitals and other facilities in this township.

Which were some of the e-Governance projects you were involved with?
In my earlier capacities I did more IT work than my primary responsibilities. When I was with the Bangalore Development Authority, I had initiated a project called at e-Pragathi, which was a multipurpose 24x7 Kaveri kiosk meant to accept utility bills including electricity, water and telephone bills. We have 75 of them in the Banglaore city today. We did a pilot project for this with three companies. For the first time we got customer reactions to the pilot project and after we were fully convinced, we went ahead and gave the project to an IT company. This model has now been taken up by one of the airlines for their check-in facility.

How is the IT department working with the Karnataka government to improve the physical infrastructure of the state?
There is a sub group on Bangalore infrastructure comprising 4 persons, including me. We meet once every two-weeks. We actually go out with the executing agencies and inspect the sites. Most of the work on roads in and around the electronic city, are going to be completed by the end of April 2007. The rest will be over by the end of May 2007. Each of the schedules are on the website of the concerned department and on our website, so that anybody can see it.

How are the other cities of Karnataka shaping up?
Mysore is doing good. Hubli is also shaping up in a big way. There is a huge IT park, and we have created 2.75 lakh square km of office space. We are ready to distribute about 160 acres of land to IT companies in Belgaum. Belgaum is strategically located, it is 75 km from Goa which has a port and an international airport. We are also holding an IT Investors' meet in Belgaum in April to attract investment.
Chennai has marched ahead of Bangalore in attracting telecom manufacturing companies. Your comments?
Each city has a strong point. The new semiconductor policy that was announced will go a long way in making Bangalore the semiconductor hub of the world. The variety of companies that Bangalore has attracted is incomparable.

What is the Karnataka government's vision for IT?
During 2007-2008, we intend to have 10 IT and BPO units outside of Bangalore, not necessarily district headquarters. We are concentrating on Tumkur, Hasan, Shimoga, and two others. The only criterion was that there should be a good supply of quality manpower. All these places have very good supply of graduates. RIIT is being set up in Mysore and would be the first IT-finishing schools in India.

Any new initiatives?
All our departments within the IT department will go paperless from May 2007. All documents will be digitized and will be digitally signed. Even file notings would be done digitally.

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