IT vital to make T.N. a $1-trillion economy: IT Minister Mano Thangaraj

Job market has changed after the pandemic. We are studying the market and understanding how we can help job-seekers, says Minister

Updated - January 21, 2022 03:51 am IST

Published - January 21, 2022 01:57 am IST

Information and Technology (IT) Minister T. Mano Thangaraj.

Information and Technology (IT) Minister T. Mano Thangaraj.

Information and Technology (IT) Minister T. Mano Thangaraj says his Department will play a crucial role in helping Tamil Nadu achieve $1-trillion economy. In an interaction with The Hindu , he said that among his key priorities are bringing in more investments and enhancing the startup ecosystem. Excerpts:

What new initiatives have you brought into the IT sector?

IT will play a crucial role in making Tamil Nadu a $1-trillion economy. The Department has taken several initiatives. For instance, to improve interaction with the industry, the government launched ‘IT Nanban’, where the industry can register themselves and access all Government Orders, policy documents and tenders. The Chief Minister launched ‘e-Munnetram’, a portal developed by TNeGA, that allows close monitoring of progress of the major infrastructure projects worth more than ₹100 crore. We launched the dashboard at the CMO that allows real-time monitoring of projects.

How has the CM dashboard helped and what new features do you intend to add?

To begin with, 17 dashboards were commissioned. Since everything is real-time, it is easy to find where the delay is and to resolve issues immediately. More dashboards will be gradually added that will include performance monitoring of MSMEs, municipal administration, TWAD, highways, TANGEDCO, forest, TNPCB, labour and employment, Tamil Nadu Skill Development Corporation, transport corporations, Mines & Minerals; Commercial Taxes, NRI Tamils, differently abled, scholarship disbursement, fisheries and all other sectors. The focus will be on bringing the infrastructure projects across 10 major departments onto the CM dashboard to improve on monitoring of the infra development projects throughout the State.

The State is home to big players such as Cognizant, TCS and Infosys. In the last few years, most investments in the IT space have come in from existing players in an expansion mode. We haven’t seen any new big names in this space. What is the government doing to draw big companies and fresh investments?

Many firms are in talks with us. We will be going abroad to woo investors, meet Indian investors abroad and explain to them the advantages of investing in Tamil Nadu. The plans have been put on hold because of the COVID-19 pandemic. We have unveiled a ‘data centre policy’ that provides incentives for companies in that space. You will see some investments coming in that space. We are working with the Industries Department to draft a policy around incentivising the growth of ‘Global Capability Centres’, the captains of Indian and non-Indian multi-national companies, which promote development of high-end products and services.

During the CII Connect 2021, you mentioned IT sector would enable other industries to become globally competitive. What is your Department doing to ensure traditional industries embrace next generation technology to stay relevant?

The IT Department is working with the Industries Department to develop a platform for the industry, the academia and research bodies for inputs on projects, services, facilities and consultations on using the latest technologies across different sectors. The Department has partnered with the Agriculture and Health Departments to develop solutions using artificial intelligence and machine learning for identification of crop pest and diseases and for diagnosing and screening for cataract, TB and other diseases. Discussions are under way with other departments.

What is the progress of the advisory committee constituted under your chairmanship three months ago?

We have experts from the academia and startups among other areas in this committee. During the first meeting there were discussions on skill development in emerging technologies and a digital transformation strategy to be adopted by the government. We will soon come out with a roadmap and plan.

Companies say most graduates are not updated with latest technologies and skills. What initiatives will you be taking to make them employable by the IT sector?

Yes, there is a big gap and we are working to narrowing it. The job market has changed after the pandemic; work dynamics have changed. We are studying the market and understanding how we can help job-seekers. The ICT Academy has been working with industry to develop technical courses for skilling the youth. TNeGA is working with the academy to make these online courses accessible to rural students through the ‘e-sevai’ centres. We have made changes in the ICT Academy — new teams are in place.

When it comes to startups, Tamil Nadu has not been able to make it to the top three. There is lack of access to funding here. How do you propose to address this?

We are working with industry captains, the Union Ministry of Information and Technology, Software Technology Parks of India and other State Departments to develop the startup ecosystem. During the stakeholder consultations, the IT Department has identified several opportunities for developing the startup ecosystem — mentoring, incubation, accelerators and financing. The policy is being drafted to include the financial and organisational support to fill these gaps.

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