March 15, '09; BANGALORE;
By Anand Parthasarathy
The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has come out with a 40 page document spelling out its Information Technology roadmap for the nation. Boosting the domestic IT industry, promoting India as server hosting hub;, offering citizens unlimited 2 MBPS broadband at Rs 200 a month, a Rs 10,000 students laptop; increasing mobile penetration to 1 billion within five years ( every phone Internet-enabled); a national ID card -- and IT enabling all citizen services : these are the highlights of the party's pre-election IT vision.
In refreshing change from the sort of political manifesto that Indian voters have been offered by most major political outfits at election time, the BJP's IT plan is a well crafted agenda, which sets targets that in most cases are doable: A Rs 10,000 laptop is something that could happen at any time -- if the government of the day, puts in place the right fiscal incentives and concessions. At any rate, it is not a ludicrous claim like the recent fiasco of a 10 dollar or 20 dollar 'laptop' that the central education ministry announced with much fanfare. Similarly a phone for every citizen is not far fetched within the 5 year time frame it has set for itself -- and is a reasonable extrapolation of the current growth rate where 10 million new phones are already activated every month. This means the phone population with double to around 800 million even if no special efforts are made.
The document commits the party if brought to power, to base all government computing on ' open standards'. A few states, particularly those ruled by left of centre governments, like Kerala have already mandated Open Source -- but this is easier said than done.
The document's commitments on behalf of the party to e-governance and e-nabling sectors like health, education and justice is part of the wish list of every government these days, no matter of what hue. It would have been interesting and possibly more convincing if the document spelt out how the BJP proposed to make this happen -- in other words, whether it moots a specific chunk of the budget, across the board to IT-enable all facets of government interfaces with civil society.
But in an environment of tall election promises, which mostly centre around freebies like TV sets, the BJP's IT Vision document is at the least, a well crafted, professionally conceived document. As of this writing no other party has published anything similar. We wait with bated breath.
A link to the PDF version of the It Vision document: