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Inclusive Growth

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"The West Bengal government is fully committed to the IT industry. Just let us know your requirement and we'll support your company," said Mamata Banerjee, the chief minister of West Bengal, in her inauguration speech at INFOCOM 2011, the 10th edition of the information and communication technology conference and exhibition hosted by Businessworld and the ABP Group in Kolkata.  

This positive message set the tone for the three-day conference organised at the ITC Sonar Bangla. Banerjee said she had set up two high-powered committees headed by Sam Pitroda and N.R. Narayana Murthy to make West Bengal a top IT destination.

In his welcome address, D.D. Purkayastha, managing director and CEO, ABP, and chairman of INFOCOM, said, "Today after 10 years, INFOCOM has evolved to become a powerful and cogent confluence of the best minds in IT and business. It has played a significant role in promoting ICT awareness and investment in West Bengal and the east." Later in the evening the chief minister spoke to Purkayastha, and said that she would give land to IT companies in various cities, if they were interested in setting up campuses. 

Basudeb Banerjee, principal secretary, IT, West Bengal government, who was the guest of honour at the event, said, "A new government has come in. We have a lot of policies in the making and in the fitness of things ‘Inclusion' is an appropriate theme at INFOCOM this year."

Nearly 150 exhibitors, including Microsoft, Lenovo, AMD, Canon, Emerson, HCL, Cisco, Sify, BSNL, Huawei, Nokia, Ricoh and Avaya, participated in the event. Close to a hundred speakers talked about varied subjects such as analytics, technology and inclusion, cloud technology, animation, technology in media and entertainment and ICT in healthcare.

The first session was on the need for inclusion. Bhaskar Pramanik, chairman of Microsoft India, emphasised that technology could change lives. "Proliferation of devices is already happening and cloud-based services can make customer interaction seamless," he said. He pointed to projects such as Project Shiksha and Project Jyothi where Microsoft was playing a pivotal role in changing the way teachers and job seekers used technology.

While the speakers agreed that the focus for inclusive growth should be on education and making small and medium businesses (SMBs) use technology, Eric Yu, president of Huawei Enterprise Business, India, had a different perspective. "We should know our employees before we embark on inclusive growth outside of the organisation." One of the most talked-about subjects of the day was the inclusion of the 600 million people who were economically backward in the country. "The country is diverse and so is inclusion. On the whole, inclusivity means working with people who work differently," said Kiran Karnik, former president of Nasscom.

The mood on Day 2 was sombre as several people died in an early morning fire at a Kolkata hospital. The chief point of discussion was the building of a smart city in emerging markets. "A smart city has every government department connected via tablets and knows what they are doing," said Shankar Kalyana, chief technology officer at IBM Global Business Services. However, the entire delivery model of smarter cities is only possible if cloud-based technologies become a reality. "We have to integrate various small businesses to use cloud technology to scale up their operations," said Amit Sinha Roy, vice-president of marketing and strategy (global enterprise solutions), Tata Communications. "For cloud to be truly democratic it should be less of an implementation problem for clients," said Joydeep Datta Gupta, the chief operating officer at Deloitte and Touche Consulting India.

Day 3 saw a packed morning session as several turned up to hear Sabeer Bhatia, founder of Hotmail, who is now running JaxtrSMS — a free SMS service. He spoke about the government's role in being more responsive to people's needs and said SMS was a great way of asking people to communicate with their leaders.

The INFOCOM-Assocham Media & Entertainment Forum and Awards brought together stalwarts from the global animation industry. The Excellence in Media & Entertainment Awards with over 20 categories received about 450 entries from 10 countries.

INFOCOM 2011 was held in association with the Department of Information Technology (IT), government of West Bengal and was supported by NeGP and Department of IT, government of India. The platinum sponsor for the event was the Tower Group, while the gold sponsors were URO Group, Avaya India, State Bank of India and Huawei.

(This story was published in Businessworld Issue Dated 02-01-2012)


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