Non Governmental Organizations | NGOs India | NGOs in Bangalore | NGOs in India

As is well known by now, India’s IT sector took off in the early 1980s with the establishment of off-shore development centers. Relatively cheap English-speaking engineering and technical talent were employed at centers in Bangalore and Chennai, then Hyderabad, and now in the suburbs of New Delhi (NOIDA). Since the liberalization of the Indian economy in the early 1990s, the Indian government has relentlessly promoted the IT sector as the harbinger of the nation’s economic aspirations. Even though the country possesses only 3.7 million Personal Computers (PCs; Pentium I or superior), it houses the largest number of software professionals outside California, whose efforts might result in the export of software worth 8 billion dollars next year, much of it to the United States.
As of 2001, the initial euphoria surrounding India’s successful software export industry has given way to a new introspection into the reasons why these intellectual and human resources have not driven improvements in India’s public and private institutions, education systems, and infrastructure. These reasons are not hard to find: (i) the Indian software industry solves small components of larger problems for international clients; (ii) this work is usually protected by confidentiality agreements; (iii) many Indian software professionals and companies compete for the same international contracts; (iv) the opportunity costs of working for Indian versus international clients is very high; and finally (v) low teledensity, computer usage, literacy, the inadequacies of regional language software interfaces, and other obstacles of India’s developing infrastructure, coupled with regulatory hurdles have inhibited such ventures.
None of this prevented Andhra Pradesh’s Chief Minister Chandrababu Naidu from crafting an aggressive state policy to attract IT-oriented investments, simultaneously claiming that this sector served the larger public interest. The constraints of electoral politics in India’s largely rural society have meant that economically liberal and technologically sophisticated leaders could not afford to leave themselves open to the charge of promoting IT at the expense of rural development, and this is a fine line to walk: Even as he invited Microsoft to set up a software center in the Hyderabad’s technology park, Naidu also installed a highly sophisticated network of communications systems in his home constituency of Kuppam, as a model for other regions of the state. Beginning in 1996, he was the first Indian politician to advocate Egovernance for making the state machinery more responsive and sensitive to citizen needs at the district and panchayat level. As of 2000-01, these policies are being emulated at the national level through an ‘IT for the Masses’ policy statement, as well as a forthcoming policy statement on Egovernance. Neighboring Karnataka is one among many other states of India to have issued an IT policy statement directed towards the ‘common man.’ Naidu’s solution to the political dilemma of promoting high-tech alongside rural empowerment, therefore, long anticipated current international debates on ‘digital divide.’
Despite the on-going deregulation of India’s telecommunications sector, its national teledensity (telephones per hundred persons) has improved very slowly, from .06 in 1990, to almost 3 today (compare with China at around 10). Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP), and Wireless-in-Local-Loop (WiLL or WLL) technologies, however, now appear set to offer a cheaper and lighter form of telecom infrastructure, that should improve rural access exponentially. New software and dotcom start-ups have begun targeting non-English speaking users, and the idea of non-elites using and benefiting from ICTs has begun to gain currency. Nevertheless, the export-oriented software industry has yet to take full advantage of the opportunities presented by the newly networking home market. A new synergy between the Infotech and Telecom sectors in India could create a profound social and economic revolution in rural communities across South Asia.

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