The city empowers five lakh youngsters with a purchasing power of over Rs 12,000 crores. The stakeholders are better placed today to handle the pressure from the sort of consumption this entails. M N Vidyashankar, the State’s IT Secretary, shares his visions for the sector that drives the city’s economy, in a chat with B S Manu Rao

What are the fundamentals this city has to offer for the IT sector to get them to set up shop here?
Bangalore has an ideal ecosystem, particularly for the knowledge sector to thrive. A strong base of R&D institutions set up by the government and private sectors, a large pool of highly skilled human resources, cosmopolitan culture, salubrious climate and last but not the least, an industry-friendly policy of the State Government. Added to this, an early lead taken by Bangalore in the IT sector, existence of a large number of MNCs, including the Fortune 500 companies, and the low cost of operations, are added attractions.

Increasingly infrastructure is cropping up as a major issue to promote the city? What are the priorities before you today?
There is a misconception regarding the word infrastructure. Infrastructure covers virtually all factors such as water, power, connectivity, space etc. It is not the infrastructure that is the issue. It is networking of roads, condition of roads and the traffic congestion which have become the issues. A growing city which never anticipated phenomenal growth in a short span of time does face such issues. Bangalore, which is placing over Rs 12,000 crores (in salaries - per annum) of purchasing power in the hands of five lakh youngsters, is an economically-prosperous city. When you place such purchasing power in the hands of the youth, they will certainly spend on automobiles, real estate, entertainment etc. The civic stakeholders are better-placed today to handle such pressures. Issues such as zonal planning, higher FAR and TDR etc, coupled with systematic regulation and control of traffic, are being dealt with effectively.

Do you see more IT pockets emerging around the city to accommodate more IT firms?
Government has realised the need for promoting towns and semi-urban centres around Bangalore. The Government proposes to set up five integrated townships in Bidadi, Ramanagara, Sathanur, Solur and Nandagudi. The first such integrated township coming up at Bidadi would be known as Knowledge City and dedicated to the IT and BT sectors. These subcentres would emerge as alternative knowledge hubs thereby reducing the growing pressure on Bangalore City and help in de-congesting the biggest urban agglomerate in the State.

What does it take to turn Bangalore into an IT nerve centre in the region?
Bangalore is already on the global map and has become an important technology hub in the Asian sub-continent. The city is an IT nerve centre and earned the sobriquet Silicon Valley of Asia. While the city has already earned name and fame in IT and BT sectors, we are now proposing to make it a nerve centre in nanotechnology also. We are hosting an international convention on nanotechnology at Bangalore on December 6-7. Prof. C N R Rao, the leading nanotechnologist in the country, is the driving force behind the event.

What sort of policy measures can the sector expect from the State Government through your department?
The Department of IT, BT and Science and Technology works with a foresight. Our policies and initiatives are proactive. We believe in technology that serves the needs of society. We are perhaps the only State in the country to have an efficient electronic delivery of citizen services system in place. We are on the road to providing Internet connectivity to the people on the move, through Wi-max technology which has a wide reach. We have anticipated the future needs of the IT sector and have therefore worked up plans in association with the authorities concerned. We are the first State in the country to realise the need for providing employable skills to young graduates and have therefore adopted the concept of IT finishing schools. The Government of India and other States have appreciated this initiative which is aimed at manpower development.

Do you see a larger role for the State's IT Department in the development and growth of this city as an IT hub? What would be your thrust areas?
The IT Department has played a proactive role and is industry-friendly. The Department acts as a catalyst and facilitator for the IT industry. On all issues concerning the IT sector, including road networks, up-gradation and expansion of roads, traffic management, road connectivity etc, the IT Department has played a very supportive role. When such issues were raised by the industry, it is the IT Department which took up their cause with the Government. Our thrust areas are to see that the IT sector gets a congenial, friendly and enabling environment for doing business. We have also taken initiatives for manpower development and our interaction with the industry and academia on this issue has benefited both.

Source: dated 10/08/07