Meghalaya Chief Minister Conrad K. Sangma today pushed the agenda of digital transformation at the historic launch of Digital Northeast 2022 at Guwahati, which was released by Union Electronic and Telecommunication Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad in the presence of Assam Chief Minister Sarbananda Sonowal and Tripura Chief Minister Biplab Kumar Deb.
He told the gathering that the State Government has approved an amount of Rs. 35 Crores for construction of Phase-I of the Shillong Tech Park Building. This building is located at the sprawling 80 Acres Tech Park campus in New Shillong Township.
Out of this 80 Acres of land, an area of 10 Acres has already been handed over to the National Institute of Electronics & Information Technology (NIELIT) for construction of its campus, the foundation of which was laid today by unveiling a digital plaque at Guwahati.
The Technology Park Building Phase-I, which is scheduled to be completed by 2020, will have about 1200 seats. These seats will be made available to IT and ITeS companies to setup their operations, which will open up employment opportunities for the local youths. The Phase I Building will also have facilities earmarked for Incubation Centers, Skilling Centres and Centres of Excellence. Besides these, an area of about 5000 Sq. feet will be available for setting up of a Data Center.
“The availability of skilled manpower, government land, infrastructure and a salubrious climate makes Shillong an ideal destination for setting up a Regional Data Center. By 2022, I expect that all 80 Acres of the Shillong Technology Park would be fully occupied with direct employment opportunities for at least 12,000 of our youths”, the Chief Minister said.
He informed that the government has made investment in ICT component in education sector with the support of ADB funded project — Supporting Human Capital Development in Meghalaya, wherein 117 school buildings are being constructed. Each of these schools will be equipped with Computer Labs, Smart Class Rooms & Digital Libraries with rich content and well trained teachers, he added.
“Our ICT investments and initiatives in education are paying rich dividends and by 2022 we expect our youths to be able to take full advantage of the Digital India & Digital North East Programmes of the GoI”, he informed.
The Chief Minister enlightened the gathering that in the Agriculture sector, Meghalaya has implemented an innovative project named 1917 iTEAMS, which is a first of its kind in the country. This is an IT enabled platform where farmers can contact a Call Center for their needs for advisory services and for farm inputs. Even for evacuating their outputs, the farmers can contact the call center that dispatches Agri Response Vehicles dedicated for the purpose.
“By 2022, I expect the 1917 iTEAMS to become a thriving e-commerce platform to connect buyers and producers of farm products. I also expect 1917 iTEAMS to become a rich repository of agricultural knowledge of all kinds where the advancements in Data Analytics and Artificial Intelligence will be fully leveraged”, he said.
Explaining that the state government has implemented a state-of-the-art Centralised GIS platform which leverages existing State Data Center and State Wide Area Network, the Chief Minister said, “By 2022, I envision that the state govt. depts will be ready with a comprehensive GIS database with rich layers. I will also ensure that the state fully leverages the facilities made available by the National Center for Geo-Informatics (NCOG) of the Ministry of Electronics & IT”.
He said that the State is making life easier for its citizens while accessing government services and to increase transparency, the state government has implemented numerous e-services initiatives. “I am happy to inform that the e-District Mission Mode Project alone with 9 services on offer to citizens, has been able to digitally process more that 1.5 lakh applications and issue end-to-end electronic certificates to our citizens”.
Trust on telecommunication
The Chief Minister also laid his thrust on Telecom connectivity across the State. “Overall telecom penetration in Meghalaya is not only well below the national average but is also below most of the other North Eastern States. This is owing to inadequate telecom infrastructure set up in the state by Telecom Service Providers (TSP) which is in turn due to factors like the hilly terrain of the state, underdeveloped supporting infrastructure and a population which is scattered into as many as about 6500 villages which perhaps make it commercially unviable for TSPs to service most of them. Needless to say both essential and economic development activities are adversely affected without seamless connectivity”.
He acknowledged that the Central Cabinet had recently approved an amount of Rs 3911 Crores under the “Comprehensive Telecom Development Plan” to cover the uncovered villages of the state of Meghalaya with mobile network. “I wish to express my gratitude to the Central Government for sanctioning the plan and I assure you that the State Government shall extend all possible help to ensure that the project gets implemented expeditiously”.
He also urged the central government to expedite the implementation of the “Comprehensive Telecom Development Plan” and the “BharatNet” projects so that the citizens of Meghalaya can have equitable access to reliable and high quality connectivity.