ICT booming in India, but regulatory potholes remain

By Indo Asian News Service | Sunday, September 17, 2006 | 9:07:29 AM IST (+05:30 GMT) Comment 0 Comment

New Delhi, Sep 17 (IANS) India is witnessing an explosion in its cellular phone market, boom in outsourcing, steady Internet growth, media convergence and growth in rural ICT (information and communication technology) initiatives - and 'regulatory stumbling blocks' too, according to a new report.

New Delhi, Sep 17 (IANS) India is witnessing an explosion in its cellular phone market, boom in outsourcing, steady Internet growth, media convergence and growth in rural ICT (information and communication technology) initiatives - and 'regulatory stumbling blocks' too, according to a new report.

'Paradoxically, India still has a long way to go in making ICT widely available to its population,' says the Digital Review of Asia Pacific 2005/06 that looks at the role technology plays in improving human lives.

'A number of high-profile events have focussed on the importance of bringing the fruits of the ICT revolution to a wider user base, especially in rural areas, where most of India's population lives,' it notes.

Called dirAP, the Digital Review of Asia Pacific seeks to provide 'a quick overview of how ICT is being deployed across the region to facilitate socio-economic development'.

This edition, published by the Ottawa-based International Development Research Centre (IDRC) together with the Asia Pacific Development Information Programme of the UNDP in Bangkok and others, covers 29 economies.

The India chapter is prepared by Madanmohan Rao, an Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) alumni who has worked with online services in the US, Brazil and India.

'As a benchmark of economic growth and ICT diffusion, it has become increasingly common to compare and contrast the domestic scenario in India with the corresponding environment in China,' says the review.

It adds that India has unfortunately been till late hindered by 'regulatory potholes' on a number of fronts, including private operator interconnectivity, VoIP (voice over internet protocol), and wireless services eligibility.

It appreciates the recent cuts in excise duty on computer hardware and cellular phones. The report cites studies by the Manufactures Association of Information Technology (MAIT) that say that personal computer (PC) sales climbed from 1.7 million to 2.3 million units in 2002-03.

'PCs bought by businesses accounted for 81 percent of total sales and recorded an annual growth of 43 percent, while the number of PCs purchased by homes grew by 16 percent,' says the report.

It says cellular phone use really took off in India's urban areas in 2003. Internet growth has also been steady, particularly among youth and business professionals. India has an estimated 30 million Internet users.

It highlights the need for continued growth in international bandwidth for India.

'Software exports exceeded $7 billion and accounted for 16 percent of the total exports of India. The total IT industry is estimated to be worth $15 billion and employs over 500,000 technical and managerial personnel,' observes the report.

'Stifling intellectual property rights regimes are quickly replacing the lack of Internet connectivity as the main obstacle to nurturing information societies in the region,' says the study.

It also points out that Asia Pacific had done well in areas where it has the attitude to thrive.

'Several economies in the region continue to lead in a number of areas: from broadband services to chip foundries and from e-government to SMS.'

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