04 September 2010

Assam IT-ready, asserts Himanta

Minister takes a swipe at Infosys chief, seeks private sector help to attract investors

Guwahati, Sept. 3: In 2006, Infosys mentor N.R. Narayana Murthy had a few posers for Assam, then looking for prospective investors in a fledgling IT sector. “Where is the bandwidth? Where is the five-star hotel?”

Four years later, Assam’s information and technology minister Himanta Biswa Sarma has the answer, or part of it, for the Narayana Murthys.

“We still remember the discussions we had with Narayana Murthy. He had told us categorically that without the proper infrastructure in place, the industry would not be attracted to Assam. Now, I can say with conviction that we are ready. I can also ask Narayana Murthy that it is time for him to keep his part of the bargain,” Sarma said here today, on the concluding day of NICT 2010, the Northeast’s largest gathering of people from the fields of information, communication and technology.

Though the minister was scheduled to attend the inaugural ceremony of NICT 2010 at the Vishwaratna Hotel yesterday, he was held up in Delhi and instead delivered his speech today.

Sarma described NICT — organised by The Telegraph — as the place for his annual “self assessment, where I present the report card for what we have achieved since the last time”.

However, the minister’s conviction about an IT- ready Assam is only partly correct as he himself said, “at least two five-star hotels will be ready by next year”, one being constructed by the Tata Group and another by Radisson.

“The Hyatt group has also signed an MoU with a local partner for setting up a hotel,” he added.

The biggest problem Assam was trying to solve was in regard to bandwidth. Dispur had moved the Centre to acquire bandwidth from international gateways based in Bangladesh rather than from Siliguri or Calcutta.

“Our request has been given the highest priority by a cabinet committee. We feel we have made a justified request by asking for bandwidth from international gateways in Bangladesh, which is much closer to us,” he added.

The IT minister said the state government was eyeing a long-term goal to transform Assam into an attractive destination for the big players.

“Ultimately, it has to be the private sector which will drive the IT industry. We, in the government, can facilitate the process,” Sarma said.

The minister also gave an account of the IT reforms being brought about by Dispur that include plans to set up an IT park for which tenders have already been floated.

“The government is trying to implement several information and technology schemes in government departments which we hope will make the state administration more transparent and efficient,” Sarma added.

The other sessions during the concluding day of the sixth edition of the meet saw government planners, industry captains, academicians and experts in other fields present their points of view on how information technology and IT-related tools can be used in different fields, from education to wildlife.