India to Spur Information Technology

Science  24 Jul 1998:
Vol. 281, Issue 5376, pp. 483c
DOI: 10.1126/science.281.5376.483c

The Indian government is hoping that new steps to stimulate India's information technology (IT) industry will boost the country from technology fledgling to software superpower.

India's burgeoning software industry has already attracted attention from companies such as IBM, which set up a $25 million research center in New Delhi last year. Adding to the momentum, a government task force on 7 July presented Indian Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee with an IT “action plan.” One major recommendation is to end the government's monopoly as Internet service provider, a step meant to help bring prices down: Right now, going online costs about $4 an hour in India. The task force also proposes tripling loans to the IT industry, eliminating hefty tariffs on imported IT products, and encouraging Internet connections throughout schools and universities. Task force co-chair M. G. K. Menon, a physicist and former science minister, predicts these policies will boost the value of India's annual software exports from $2.7 billion now to $50 billion within a decade.

The plan is “a very good first step,” says Thiagrajan Vishwanathan, director of the Indian National Scientific Documentation Center in New Delhi. But he cautions that information technology won't take off until India's optical-fiber network covers the country—still several years away.

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