West Bengal taking giant strides in adopting technology

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The IT Policy lays emphasis on startups and new technology initiatives. A State-level hackathon is being conducted by theIT Department with diverse problem areas such as Fintech, Tourism, last mile transportation and more, says Debashis Sen, Additional Chief Secretary, IT and Electronics Department, Government of West Bengal & Chairman-cum- Managing Director, West Bengal Housing Infrastructure Development Corporation (WBHIDCO), in conversation with Poulami Chakraborty of Elets News Network (ENN).

President Ram Nath Kovind recently remarked that Bengal should tap the opportunities in the digital space, what measures are being taken by the West Bengal Government in this sector?
The Government of West Bengal is taking giant strides in adopting Information Technology in the Government mechanism of the State. We are banking highly on new digital technologies of Blockchain, Cyber Security, Fintech, Internet of Things (IoT), Data Sciences, Analytics, Animation and Gaming. In particular, it is laying a great deal of emphasis on Blockchain and is trying to be a hub for the nation. For this, a strategy paper is being drawn with inputs from academic institutions (ISI, IIT, IIIT), chambers of commerce (Nasscom, Assocham) and select practitioners. The entire ecosystem including reskilling and pilot project demonstrations in the public domain is being built up.

What major projects the IT department of West Bengal is currently working on?
A Centre of Excellence on Cyber Security has already been set up in Kolkata. A Centre of Innovation is being set up and expected to be operational by 2018. Twelve IT parks and one Electronic Hardware Park have been commissioned. A Fintech hub has been put out in the public domain for attracting experts.

More IT Parks are planned to be commissioned in the near future. A skill building academy is being built in collaboration with a knowledge partner for Animation and Gaming.

What opportunities does the State hold for premium IT companies?
The strategy is to reach out to signature IT Companies and help them. A new IT Policy has an incentive scheme which is expected to be announced shortly by Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee.

Is the State Information Technology department focussing on startups?
The IT Policy lays emphasis on startups and new technology initiatives. There are special incentives for such initiatives. A State level hackathon is being conducted by the IT Department with diverse problem areas such as Fintech, Tourism, last mile transportation and more. Periodic networking workshops and conferences are also being organised.

What are the major challenges for the IT department in West Bengal?
The State is developing very fast in tune with the rapid strides in technology advancement happening in the remaining parts of the country. But the perception of the investor community on the business climate and friendliness is not changing as fast as the reality.

What is your vision for Digital India campaign? What steps has the State taken in this regard?
We believe that the millennials of West Bengal, with their inherent mathematical talent, are capable of taking on the new disruptive technologies very quickly. The government is also trying to build an ecosystem that allows them to upgrade
their skills through online courses curated by experts, actual hand-holding by university researchers and exposing them to industries. In addition, we are planning to encourage telecom companies to put out Wi-Fi hotspots so that the Internet penetration is deepened in the Tier-I and Tier-II towns of the State.

ICT is the prime tool for establishing a strong base for building a Smart City. How are you working with ICT players?
We have interacted with ICT players at several levels. There has been brainstorming workshops in collaborationn with NASSCOM, AmCham, BCCI and CII as also with major IT players including IBM, HP, Bosch, Intel, CISCO, 3M, Bosch, Siemens and many others. We have evaluated their innovations and are already working on some of the suggestions as a PoC (Proof of Concept). We have also especially banked on residents of the Smart City who are themselves IT experts; such primary stakeholders have given us rare insights on the extent to which global practices can or cannot be tweaked to the city where they live and will live for a very long time.

Green building devices, smart home devices, smart living solutions, building efficiency systems are just some of the primary elements for smart urban housing. How is WBHIDCO ensuring to provide all these necessities?
After months of consultation with citizen groups, expert technical firms, innovative think tanks and internal brainstorming, all four Smart Cities of the State have painstakingly put together a Smart City plan that is specific to them. Broadly, these are categorised into two groups: a pan-city solution and a set of an areabased solutions. Since all interventions cannot be spread over the whole
cityscape, as resources would be very thinly spread out in that case, an area of 500 acres or more would be taken up for creating a synergy of smart solutions and then, later, replicate these into other areas. The pan-city solution, on the other hand, would impact all residents, e-governance being an obvious example.

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