Improve education, implement and monitor projects

by Ashutosh Desai    Feb 25, 2010

The Indian Government will announce its fiscal policy for the year 2010-11 within the next 24 hours. As the ministry works towards presenting the country’s budget tomorrow, CXOtoday went about gaining a few insights on the expectations in the IT industry. There seems to be a pressing need to work on the education system — from the primary to the professional level — right from fund allocation, technology enablement to tax rebates. Infrastructure spend also needs to be monitored and expenditure due to delayed projects must be mitigated, if not completely curtailed.

Partha Iyengar, VP and distinguished analyst regional research director, Gartner (India), feels that the Indian IT industry — domestic and offshore — does not need "micro level" sops like tax breaks. In order to retain a competitive advantage, Iyengar says that now is the time when major macro statements and investments have to be made in the areas of infrastructure and education — "the two factors that are major constraints to the industry moving along the path to becoming an IP superpower."

In order to address these two areas he suggested that the Government must take specific steps like announcing continued increases in infrastructure spend, both in the urban and semi-urban areas. Instead of concentrating only on the IITs and IIMs, Iyengar suggested, the Govt. must expand its focus to revamp primary and secondary education. There also need to be a strong focus on IP (intellectual property) protection, added Iyengar.

Iyengar stressed on the actual implementation in the areas he mentioned above. One phase is the "statement of intent and allocation that will come in the budget". The second is the "statement of the steps the government will take to ensure the actual implementation and oversight of whatever is announced". He said this is where there are major issues even in the implementation of past policy announcements.

The Indian Prime Minister, Manmohan Singh, had stressed on the importance of monitoring large projects to ensure cost control, reduce delays and increase transparency. According to Balaji Sreenivasan, founder-CEO, Aurigo Software Technologies, "Unless this committee becomes equipped with a policy to force contractors and Government agencies to report periodically and in a consistent format, this will not fly."

Aurigo is a software company that helps government agencies and construction houses streamline project data and automate their monitoring systems, in order to costs and reduce delays. Sreenivasan said President Obama had passed the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA), setting a list of reporting guidelines that are mandatory for agencies and contractors working on government projects to account for spend and report progress. He feels India should take this kind of an approach because the government is spending large amounts on capital infrastructure. Delayed projects only add up to greater losses to the government.

There is also an opinion that there needs to be budgetary allocation towards "technology that enables innovation in imparting knowledge and improving the quality of education in the country". Rajiv Bhalla, country head (sales and marketing), NEC India hopes the budget will pave the way for "investment-led growth and stimulate demand through fiscal measures".

Employees need to upgrade their skill set but training fees tend to be a hindrance, especially if they have to bear the costs. Manoj Chugh, president (India and SAARC), EMC Corporation said, "Professionals should be allowed tax rebates for skills upgrade training costs. This will encourage the Indian workforce to remain globally competitive and strengthen our ability to move up the value chain."