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Making Chandigarh a global IT hub

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Arjun SharmaIntroducing a slew of measures, Chandigarh Administration is on its way to develop the City Beautiful as a global IT hub. Arjun Sharma, Director IT, Chandigarh Administration, in conversation with Priya Yadav of Elets News Network (ENN), offers insights into the various digital initiatives undertaken to realise this goal.

Which key initiatives have you undertaken in the Information Technology sector?

We seek to develop Chandigarh as a global IT hub. Our aim is that if anybody thinks about IT in India, they should think of Chandigarh. To insure this, we already have an IT park in Chandigarh and we are in the process of developing it further. In order to build an enabling ecosystem for IT industry to flourish in the city, we are actively tying up with various academic institutions, private institutions and partners in e-governance space.

As far as Chandigarh Administration is concerned, we are pursuing a number of different projects related to IT. For instance, we are doing an e-office project; we are into the Swarm framework; and we have recently joined the Right to Information (RTI) online system. Besides, there are several other initiatives which are going on. We have also developed websites, and many processes, certificates and permissions have gone online. We are working towards easing interactions and reducing human interface with the citizens of Chandigarh.

Can you share some areas of weaknesses in the system that need fixing?

The weaknesses are very generic in nature. For example, the information security protocols are still to be developed in the country. Beyond doubt we are following the most advanced information security protocol, but we are still not clear as to how this protocol would coordinate with various other agencies. Cyber security is something which must be acknowledged as significant, and we are sure that down the line we would be able to accomplish good outcomes. Moreover, IT is something which requires coordination across several departments. For instance, a department cannot have an e-office in isolation. So, an e-office needs to be there in every department for better interaction. With regard to that, coordination is something we are working on.

Is there any dedicated task force to implement cyber security, or is it the general staff taking care of this work?

As far as Chandigarh is concerned, we have a dedicated team here in the city. Plus, there are other protocols which are still in the process of formulation so that the data and information, which we are generated in Chandigarh, remains digitally secured. Chandigarh is way ahead of other states in terms of IT usage.

How do you see it helping create awareness among people?

After demonetisation, we actively partnered with various organisations, including banks and merchants. We ran a massive awareness campaign regarding ways of making digital payments. We are promoting Wemap, Digilocker and Bharat Bill Payment System (BBPS), and many of our merchants have gone online. We have a very unique system of e-Sampark centres and e-Sampark portal. People make use of the e-Sampark centres to pay most of their utility bills, and majority of those payments are made online.

It has brought a huge convenience to the people of Chandigarh. The most important thing is that the Merchant Discount Rate (MDR) charges, which were earlier levied on customers, are not being levied in the same manner. MDR charges are levied on debit cards, credit cards, and boss machines also. Now there is a whole regime of MDRs. So, under our regime, we have zeroed the MDR charges, which is another incentive.

When the IT park came up sometime back, many big companies like Infosys came to Chandigarh. Which international players have shown interest in setting up their shops here?

requires coordination across several departments. For instance, a department cannot have an e-office in isolation. So, an e-office needs to be there in every department for better interaction. With regard to that, coordination is something we are working on.

Is there any dedicated task force to implement cyber security, or is it the general staff taking care of this work?

As far as Chandigarh is concerned, we have a dedicated team here in the city. Plus, there are other protocols which are still in the process of formulation so that the data and information, which we are generated in Chandigarh, remains digitally secured.

Chandigarh is way ahead of other states in terms of IT usage. How do you see it helping create awareness among people?

After demonetisation, we actively partnered with various organisations, including banks and merchants. We ran a massive awareness campaign regarding ways of making digital payments. We are promoting Wemap, Digilocker and Bharat Bill Payment System (BBPS), and many of our merchants have gone online. We have a very unique system of e-Sampark centres and e-Sampark portal.

People make use of the e-Sampark centres to pay most of their utility bills, and majority of those payments are made online. It has brought a huge convenience to the people of Chandigarh. The most important thing is that the Merchant Discount Rate (MDR) charges, which were earlier levied on customers, are not being levied in the same manner. MDR charges are levied on debit cards, credit cards, and boss machines also.

Now there is a whole regime of MDRs. So, under our regime, we have zeroed the MDR charges, which is another incentive. Basically, we have identified certain parameters which are conducive to any global IT industry. We are going to provide those facilities to attract global companies. If we provide a good environment, then surely industries would show up. For example, we have all the resources – land, a Special Economic Zone (SEZ) and policy parameters – in place. We just need to invite the companies over, and for that we are actively collaborating with them. The Haryana government has come up with an IOT centre, and they have also set up an incubation centre in Gurugram.

What are your key initiatives for startups?

We in Chandigarh are looking forward to a Seed Support System (SSS) incubation centre for startups. For that, we will be shortly coming up with a policy. It is in the pipeline and will promote startups. We have designated a separate space for startups in ETC building. In fact, all the companies which are working from there are relatively new, and we are promoting them. We are actively promoting them in schools and colleges and students are being encouraged to start their own ventures. Also, we are organising workshops for students. All this is being done for the development of IT sector in Chandigarh.

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