‘As Bengal Silicon Valley and FinTech Hub is taking off, with cultural links to North East India and South East Asia, Bengal is the next destination for Emerging Technologies,’ says Debashis Sen, Additional Chief Secretary, Department of Information Technology & Electronics, Government of West Bengal, in conversation with Souvik Goswami of Elets News Network (ENN).
Give an overview of the key initiatives being undertaken by the Department of Information Technology & Electronics to build effective IT infrastructure and for the promotion of IT in the state of West Bengal.
The Government of West Bengal envisages to become one of the leading states in India in the IT and ITeS and Electronics System Design and Manufacturing (ESDM) sectors and to enable West Bengal to transform into a knowledge-driven welfare society with extensive use of IT and ITeS in Governance and in the daily lives of the people of the state. Some of the initiatives undertaken by the Government of West Bengal include 17 IT Parks, 3 Electronic Parks, FinTech & LegalTech Hub, Centre of Excellence on Cyber Security, Knowledge Workshops on Emerging Technologies, Centre on Innovation, Ease of Delivering Services, EoDB, Upgraded State Data Centre, leveraging cloud services for start-ups, Start-Up Warehouse, National Hackathon, State Wide Area Network and Paperless E-Office.
What is your opinion on the use of new age technologies like AI, IoT, Blockchain for good governance and how your department is leveraging them to ensure governance transformation?
The Smart City New Town is the only Urban Local Body in India to have been issuing Blockchain based birth and death certificates since the Global Blockchain Congress held at New Town, Kolkata in November 2018. So far, 2467 birth certificates and 179 death certificates have been issued on Blockchain. The immutability aspect of a Blockchain makes it ideal for use in governance where permanent records are required. In Artificial Intelligence (AI) too, the State Government has formed a committee to identify use cases for reducing accidents on road, women safety, crop advisory etc and also to create jobs for district towns in eMarketplace for data curation required for AI.
The Government of West Bengal has envisioned ambitious Bengal Silicon Valley IT Hub. Shed some light on the progress of it.
A unique eco-system covering 200 acres of plug-and-play area in Smart City New Town Kolkata, close to the Netaji Subhash Chandra International Airport in a seismic-free zone with an assurance of business and research continuity has been planned. Ringfenced by universities and tech firms including IT-SEZs, close to FinTech Hub and IT Centres, much of it is already taken up by Reliance Jio, TCS, FirstSource, Cognizant Technology, Tech Mahindra, Indian Statistical Institute and more. The next phase of allotments in a unique day-to-day basis will start in June 2019, after the Lok Sabha Elections.
Do you think that the state has become an attractive destination for IT investments?
With Infosys having started its project on a 50 acre plot in Kolkata and IT exports from the state rising from Rs 10,000 crore in 2010-11 to Rs 18,0000 crore in 2016-17, we can claim that West Bengal is one of the key destinations for IT investments. Bengal Silicon Valley and FinTech Hub have taken off and cultural links to North East India and South East Asia have also been strengthened. Bengal is the next destination for Emerging Technologies. We like to say: Bengal means Blockchain, West Bengal is Tech Bengal.
What is your vision for digital governance to build a knowledge economy?
We like to give benefits of Technology to MSMEs, small businesses that can increase efficiency in housekeeping, e-marketing through e-Commerce and market-led product design with 3D print technology. We envision developing voice-based technology, the Indian language Alexa, to reach the benefits of tech to the masses with the usage of mobile phones. We also aim to crowd-source funds for local projects. We have already done this in Blockchain for a Ramakrishna Mission project on a pilot basis.