Nara Lokesh

Nara LokeshThe Andhra Government has taken a series of measures in terms of infrastructure and technology. To provide enabling environment to start-ups and encourage entrepreneurship in the State, it has been proposed to set up the Andhra Pradesh Innovation Society (APIS). We are in the process of incubating 100 start-ups in next five years, says Nara Lokesh, Minister for Information Technology and Communication, Panchayat Raj and Rural Development, Government of Andhra Pradesh, in an Exclusive Interview with Gopi Krishna Arora of Elets News Network (ENN).

Q What are the major policies through which the State Government is promoting startups and entrepreneurs of Andhra Pradesh?

The department has proposed setting up the Andhra Pradesh Innovation Society (APIS), whose role is to encourage and promote entrepreneurship in the State, through initiatives such as Innovation and Startup Policy 2014-2020, technology ventures, technology incubators and technology accelerators, and campus connect.

The APIS is setting up a fund of funds with a grant of Rs 100 crore for entrepreneurs and startups, with the aim of developing an ecosystem of start-ups.

Govin Capital, Singapore, in collaboration with APIS has set up a pilot incubator facility in Sunrise Towers, Vishakhapatnam where 14 start-ups have already been incubated. They are in the process of incubating 100 start-ups in the next five years. The State also houses XLr8, a top-6 technology accelerator in the country.

In an attempt to promote futuristic technologies, APIS is pushing the innovation agenda across verticals through drone incubation center and CoE for IoT.

The State has been allotted 131 Atal Tinkering Labs, the highest number of such labs in a single State. These labs will be established across all 13 districts of the State to ensure equal opportunity to citizens and nurture an ecosystem of student entrepreneurship.

The IT department has played a key role in collaborating with TiE, a non-profit global community welcoming entrepreneurs from around the world for mentorship and networking, to establish the TiE Amaravati Chapter. TiE events are planned throughout the year, covering a wide range of topics, across the State of Andhra Pradesh.

Q You took over as the Minister for IT, Government of Andhra Pradesh, a year ago and played a role of visionary leader. Today, Andhra Pradesh is largely seen as a growth story. How would you describe the greatest accomplishment of Andhra Government?

I firmly believe that information technology and electronics will form the backbone of our future economy. Since taking charge as the Minister for IT, Govt. of Andhra Pradesh, our Government has successfully brought about a renewed interest among potential investors in the areas of IT, electronics and industry 4.0 technologies.

The State has developed a strong vision for the IT sector in the state to enable the creation of one lakh IT jobs and bring in investments worth $ two billion. It also envisions creating two lakh jobs in the electronics sector and bringing investments worth $ five billion in the sector.

Q The Government of Andhra Pradesh realises the potential of the industry and the growth opportunities it brings to the State. How are we planning to make the State best investment destination? Our government is on track to achieve its commitment of generating one lakh IT jobs and two lakh Electronics jobs through industry participation in the State.

The CII Partnership Summit 2018 saw high-level of interest from potential investors in IT, Electronics and other industry 4.0 technologies. A total of 76 MoUs were signed with committed investment of Rs 30,058 crore and committed employment of 1,31,748 jobs.

The State forged 41 MoUs in the IT sector, committing an investment of Rs 9,880 crore with a committed employment 87,273 jobs. Moreover, 30 MoUs signed in the Electronics sector have a committed investment of Rs 19,800.24 crore and committed employment of 42,290.

These MoUs include four MoUs with IT infrastructure companies, which will bring in investments of RS 3,450 crore and generate employment of 44,500 in the next 5 years.

Q Tell us about the state policies in place for the IT, Electronics and Fintech sector.

Over the past 12 months, our Government has championed the need for the creation of a number of policies to cater to traditional as well as emerging technologies. These policies will enable the creation of a best-in-class business environment to encourage and assist companies to set up operations in the State.

Some of these policies are:

Cyber Security Policy 2017-2020

Global In-house Centre Policy 2017-2020

Designated Technology Parks Policy 2017-2020

Integrated Innovation and Technology Policy 2017-2020

Artificial Intelligence Cloud Hub Policy 2017-2020

Besides, our Government is also spearheading the rollout of a policy targeted towards Animation and Gaming sectors. The policy is expected to be released shortly.

These business-friendly policies have helped in attracting marquee investments to the State including HCL, Franklin Templeton Investments, Conduent, and ANSR Consulting, among others.

We have also directed the development of suitable IT infrastructure in terms of cold shell and plug and play office space. A dedicated team has been working on identifying ready office spaces for IT companies to commence operations. Till date, 19,40,188 sq ft of land with a seating capacity of 24,240 has been identified, and multiple IT layouts extending over 415 acres have also been taken up.

The Millenium Towers facility coming up in Visakhapatnam will be IoT enabled and cyclone resistant and house 2,00,000 sq ft. of space for plug and play operators. The Tech Mahindra building in Vishakhapatnam that has been taken up by Andhra Pradesh Electronics Information Technology Agency (APEITA) on lease for providing plug and play infrastructure is filling up fast, and APEITA is on the lookout for additional space.

The department has also been actively involved in setting up of IT SEZs in the State. The State has two SEZs dedicated to IT and is looking to set up four additional SEZs in Vijayawada, Visakhapatnam, Chittoor, and Anantapur.

Additionally, during the recently concluded CII Partnership Summit 2018, Vishakhapatnam Urban Development Authority (VUDA) inked a memorandum with the State Government to develop an IT City in its 20 acre land in Madhurawada.

Nara Lokesh with the Vice President of PayPal, Richard Nash

Nara Lokesh with the Vice President of PayPal, Richard Nash

Electronics Sector

With an aim to create the best of facilities in these clusters and also attract investments in the electronic sector, The Government of Andhra Pradesh has proposed to constitute a Task Force. The members would include secretaries from different departments of GoAP, APEITA, Andhra Pradesh Economic Development Board, Andhra Pradesh Non-Resident Telugu, and members from Electronic Manufacturing Industry, and associations representing ESDM sector and Consultants.

In lieu of the large scale employment generation potential of the electronics manufacturing sector, the Government of Andhra Pradesh has accorded highest priority to the sector. The State Government envisions the creation of a Silicon Corridor in the State, which will provide 2 lakh jobs in the Electronics sector.

We have a sustainable longterm vision for electronic clusters, which is to create a comprehensive infrastructure for electronics manufacturing in 6,000 acres of space with a total built up area of 24 million sq. metre.

The ITE&C Department has proposed to set up five clusters for electronics manufacturing at Visakhapatnam (catering to medical electronics), Nellore (SriCity), Tirupati (EMC-1 and EMC-2 catering to mobile, consumer electronics and automotive electronics) and Anantapur (Gudipalli, focusing on defence, aerospace and PCB manufacturing).

The State has been successful in grounding investments from marquee electronics companies including Celkon, Dixon and Foxconn.

Fintech & Blockchain

In the past one year, Visakhapatnam has been developed as a hub for Fintech companies. Fintech Valley Vizag aims to create a global Fintech ecosystem in collaboration with multiple stakeholders such as corporates, universities, financial institutions, technology service providers, startups and accelerators.

Under the able leadership of visionary Chief Minister N. Chandrababu Naidu, Fintech Valley Vizag has become a global brand in a short span of time and has been garnering interest from various countries looking for market access in India, in the domains of Fintech cutting across the verticals of cybersecurity, artificial intelligence/ machine learning, analytics, and blockchain.

In the past year, Fintech valley has also created Indias largest Fintech use case repository with its 20 leading BFSI corporate partners such as IDFC Bank, Aditya Birla, TATA financial services, Kotak bank etc. with 100 use cases identified. This repository aims to open market access opportunity for startups from across the world to run proof of concepts as well as project implementation with our partners.

We have also been actively spearheading the adoption of Blockchain technology, and his efforts have been recognised globally. In October 2017, Vizag hosted Asias biggest blockchain conference, attended by 1,000+ delegates from over 20 countries.

Recognising the dearth of R&D centers based on blockchain platform, our government has encouraged the creation of blockchain centres of excellence (CoE) in collaboration with Broadbridge, Thomson Reuters & GITAM University as well as creating forums for Fintech and blockchain.

Q Tell us more about Designated Technology Parks Policy 2017 “ 2020 and Andhra Pradesh Artificial Intelligence Cloud Hub Policy 2018 “ 2020.

The Designated Technology Parks Policy 2017 “ 2020 aims to create a robust and reliable infrastructure for Information Technology companies to setup operations.

And, the Andhra Pradesh Artificial Intelligence Cloud Hub Policy 2018 “ 2020 is a first-ofits- kind policy in India, with the potential of transforming Andhra Pradesh into the IoT and Cloud hub of the country.

Q Today, effective use of ICT is imperative to meet the evergrowing expectations of citizens and businesses. E-Governance is continuously evolving to provide access, equity & empowerment to masses. Tell us about the major e-governance projects initiated in Andhra Pradesh in recent times?

The Andhra Pradesh government firmly believes that adopting the latest technology is quintessential to provide effective governance and achieving sustainable economic growth across all sectors, and has championed the States fast paced implementation of Industry 4.0 principles within the government.

We have been instrumental in conceptualising the digitisation of governance across departments, leading to a more effective and transparent monitoring and delivery of schemes and activities.

The State has envisioned the need for a one-stop portal for IT & Electronics investors. The portal will enable online application and processing of incentives and approvals. We have implemented Chief Ministers Office Real-time utive (CORE) Dashboard that empowers governance, and is now cited by the NITI Aayog as a replicable best practice for other State Governments in India to emulate. The NITI Aayog has a special mention of technology initiatives of GoAP in their report titled State Forward published last year.

We were instrumental in the rapid progress made by the e-Pragati authority in digitally transforming Andhra Pradesh into the first such State Government in India. The e-Pragati core platform has been designed with the following features:

Ready to use e-services platform

Whole of Government approach

Standardised citizen experience

Big Data and analytics support across the departments

Going forward, the services of 33 departments will be digitalised and separate apps will be developed for services provided by each department, to offer one touch access of digital services to the citizens. All the apps will be put on the e-Pragati platform. The e-Pragati Authority has organised the Digital Transformation in Public Governance training programme for 96 senior officers, in collaboration with Indian School of Business (ISB), Hyderabad. The e-Pragati Authority has commenced a Digital Literacy programme, through which it aims to train more than 50,000 government employees for ICT adoption at extreme ends of the government administration.

Our dedicated team has played an active role in conceptualising and monitoring the implementation of e-Office, aimed at restricting physical movement of files between departments, and so far it has been implemented in all 13 districts covering up to the gram panchayat level and has been used to create 22,98,313 files.

The e-cabinet initiative was launched on similar lines of e-office, and has since been effectively utilised for conducting 88 e-cabinets so far, for approval of draft cabinet notes, uploading and approval of Cabinet resolutions, and monitoring the implementation of the resolutions. This will lead to more effective, efficient and transparent governance.

Being a strong proponent of utilising technology in governance, GoAP has implemented several innovative and citizen centric e-governance projects such as MeeSeva, MeeKosam, MeeBhoomi, to ensure improved delivery of services and faster grievance redressal of citizens. The success of  these initiatives is gauged from the fact that Andhra Pradesh has consolidated the first position for delivery of e-Services in the country, as per the e-Taal portal of GoI.

Honble CM Nara Chandrababu Naidu ( 5th from Right) and Minister Nara Lokesh ( 4th from Right) with industry visionaries in Davos

Q How the State Government is using technology to improve agricultural productivity in the State?

Latest technology is being utilised by Andhra Pradesh in developing agriculture sector. The government has deployed drones to collect and analyse soil samples, and piezometers to continuously monitor ground water levels at mandal-level. Sensorbased IoT devices are also being assessed for retrofitting old electricity meters with new technology.

We are formulating new policies to strengthen farmers and also called agri-tech startup companies to invest in AP. The State government is providing all the help required for the startup companies in regard to the infrastructure and other activities apart from offering quality seeds, fertilizers, and modern equipment, to the farmers.

Q The Skill Development is another major focus of Government of India. What is the Andhra Pradesh Governments approach in linking education and employability to make the youth of state employable?

Skill Development and Employment

The Andhra Pradesh State Skill Development Corporation (APSSDC), in association with Microsoft, to conduct regular workshops in software development and programming, and organise hackathons for students across the State as part of the States up-skilling initiatives to improve employability of the available human capital.

Projects such as Project Sangam are focusing on providing vocational training in different trades for unemployed youth in Vishakhapatnam, Vijayawada, Tada (Sri City), and Anantapur. These training programmes will be extended to seven (7) additional locations in subsequent phases.

In December 2017, Andhra Pradesh Information Technology Academy (APITA) conducted a mega job fair in Vijayawada, where more than 7,700 candidates attended, with 1,000 final job offers rolled out.

Implementing the vision of the Chief Minister, the Andhra Pradesh Information Technology Academy (APITA) conducted another mega job fair in Tirupati between March 7-9, 2018 where nearly 3,000 job offers were handed out to eligible candidates by 50 top tier companies, and another such job fair is being organised in Visakhapatnam during March 14-16, 2018.

The Government of Andhra Pradesh intended the establishment of the International Institute of Digital Technologies (IIDT) at Tirupati, Andhra Pradesh, to preempt an increasing gap in skill sets in emerging technologies. To this end, the IIDT aims to equip students with next generation technologies (Cyber security and Data Analytics) which are relevant for the growth of the industry in the coming decade.

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