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View from India: Rural regions are on the rise

Rural India and tier cities are increasingly becoming hotspots for IT investment and development in Karnataka, India’s IT and Knowledge Capital.

Software Technology Parks of India (STPI) along with the state government of Karnataka (GoK) will open a second centre in Davangere in Karnataka. “With this, there will be five STPI centres in Karnataka. IT Exports from all the STPI units in the country is around Rs 3 lakh crores [£35bn]; of this the STPI units from Karnataka have contributed about 40 per cent. STPI units from tier II cities have contributed Rs 4,000 crores [£465m] to IT exports,” said Mr Omkar Rai, director general, STPI, at India’s flagship IT and electronics event BengaluruITE.biz. This year’s event, which is themed as ‘Define the Next’, has chalked out various strategies to digitise all parts of Karnataka.

In order to bring rural Karnataka under the ambit of digital governance, GoK plans to launch Wi-Fi service in 11 Gram Panchayats in collaboration with Karnataka State Electronics Development Corporation Limited (KEONICS). Gram Panchayats are the local self-government institution at the village level whose head is the focal point of contact between government officers and the village community.

“National optic-fibre network will be laid out in these Gram Panchayats. Subsequently, residents of these villages will get access to high-speed Wi-Fi networks. The impact of this digital inclusion will be immense and will extend to last mile connectivity. Digital inclusion will provide an online marketplace to the village folk,” added Siddaramaiah, Chief Minister of Karnataka.

The event also stressed the need to promote micro, small and medium enterprises and start-ups in tier II and III cities. “In the next five years, Karnataka intends to encourage 20,000 start-ups. A sum of Rs 400 crore will be allocated towards this project,” explained Mr Priyank Kharge, Minister for IT, BT and Tourism.

There’s also a move towards re-skilling initiatives in areas like automation to help engineers fine-tune their skills. Overall the accent is on investment and improvement. “Invest in Karnataka and innovate in Karnataka, as the future of India will be made here. Already Karanataka is home to over 400 R&D units. While Bangalore is already an established brand, it’s time IT companies looked at the tier cities of Karnataka,” said Mr RV Deshpande, Minister for LMI (large and medium scale industries) and Infrastructure Development, GoK, optimistically.

If the future lies in tier cities, issues related to connectivity and infrastructure need to be addressed. Elevated roads are part of the forthcoming infrastructure development plans. Other tangible benefits include the development of airports in tier cities like Belgaum and Hubli.

Notwithstanding that, the state is investing in the health of its citizens. One such effort is a government-led initiative titled Grand Challenge Karnataka, which aims to promote new technologies or innovations that can offer solutions to some of the prevalent health problems in the state. Grand Challenge, Karnataka aims to channelise innovations for social impact and in the process support the establishment and growth of start-ups.

With out-of-the box thinking, technology is being tapped for creating a social impact. Take the case of rural gender inequality. This year GoK has launched Chetana, a talent-promotion tech-enabled programme for the girl child. In its first phase, 356 girls from government schools across Karnataka, who have topped the Standard X exam, have participated in a five-day residential camp at the Infosys Development Centre in Mysore. The Chetana Scholars were each presented a laptop. Besides being technologically empowered, Chetana Scholars will be hand-held for two years. GoK has signed an MoU with Samsung India for Project Chetana, to promote computer and digital education to underprivileged girl students of government schools and rural areas of the state for three years. In the current financial year, Samsung will donate 400 tablets as a CSR (corporate social responsibility) activity.

No surprise that BengaluruITE.biz has attracted a sizeable number of global investors, which has led to the signing of more than one Memorandum of Understanding (MoU). One such MoU is between The Hague, Netherlands and the Government of Karnataka for collaboration in the fields of technology for genetic research, start-ups, cyber security and elderly care. Statistics indicate that citizens over 60 years of age account for about 25 per cent of the population.

The next wave of growth in the information technology and electronics sectors is expected to be driven through digital disruption. It’s understandable that cntres of excellence (CoE) will be established in the state for the first time in new and key sectors. The upcoming CoEs in verticals like aerospace, big data sciences, animation and cyber security will focus on R&D and training.

BengaluruITE.biz is organised by the Department of Information Technology, Biotechnology and Science and Technology, Government of Karnataka, in association with Software Technology Parks of India (STPI) Bengaluru, with the support of national industry associations like NASSCOM, IESA, TIE and ABAI.

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