Karnataka IT policy: Improve infra, education quality

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Karnataka’s decision to unveil a new IT policy replacing the existing one, which is a decade old, is welcome as it not only aims at providing a boost to the sector but also shifts the focus from Bengaluru by encouraging investment in smaller towns through incentives. According to Deputy CM C N Ashwath Narayan who also holds the IT-BT portfolio, the policy will give the state a competitive edge by fostering innovation through the newly formed Karnataka Innovative Council, streamlining the process of acquiring land and simplifying regulations to promote ease of doing business. Over the years, the government has played a minimal role, with various other conducive factors contributing to the growth of the industry. Now, the government will make a concerted effort to establish the state as a gamechanger in the field of technology and artificial intelligence, though appropriate policy interventions.

Bengaluru’s journey as the country’s IT capital began in the early 1980s with Texas Instruments setting up its facility here, though it was only during the 90s that the city emerged as a veritable competition to Silicon Valley. With over 1,500 IT-based companies making the city their home, the state has seen an increase in its gross domestic product. Employment opportunities have improved, purchasing power has enhanced with disposable income in the hands of youth going up, real estate has also grown exponentially. On the flip side, this unplanned and unbridled growth has made it virtually unliveable with the garden city becoming a concrete jungle. While the government promises to decongest the crowded city with new policy, it should also move fast to strengthen the infrastructure in Tier-2 and Tier-3 cities, as mere incentives may not be attractive enough.

However, a bigger challenge as the deputy CM admits, is the “talent gap”. Though the state with over 200 engineering colleges produces thousands of graduates every year. According to the Annual Employability Survey 2019 by Aspiring Minds, a job credentialing platform, 80% of Indian engineers are not fit for any job in the knowledge industry with only 2.5% possessing the required skills in AI. The immediate task before the government would be to enhance the quality of technical education lest investors find the state uninteresting due to the poor talent pool. Though the new policy promises hope, the government would do well in harnessing the potential of other emerging sectors like aerospace and defence manufacturing as it might not be prudent to put all eggs in one basket in these days of economic volatility.

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