With a vigourously free press, 600 million television viewers, a major computer software industry and immense demand for telecommunications, India is probably the world's most exciting information market. It is both a large consumer of information products - with a population second only to China's - and a large producer, churning out three times as many films as Hollywood.
India is usually associated with an information industry only because it has emerged as the leading base for off-shore software development. While this sector remains the most exemplary, with an English-educated workforce driving it at an annual growth rate of nearly 50%, it is only the first of many indicators of India's potential. After all, software was one of the few industries safe from protectionism and government monopolies and has, in fact, received several tax incentives.
However, the economic liberalisation programme started four years ago has reduced red tape considerably (see Red tape, now with more holes), encouraging the growth of other information industries, including many that are barely a few years old. If the tremendous three-digit growth in cable-TV networks (until recently completely unregulated) and satellite TV channels is any indication, the government's opening up of telecommunications (including basic services) to private and foreign investment should be very successful, especially given its apparent sincerity in creating an independent regulatory authority to monitor the competitive duopolies it foresees (see Reforming telecom, Convergence, Indian style).
India's huge potential in communications may be realised thanks to the government's inability to satisfy demand on its own - less than one in two Indians have access, and only one in hundred own, a telephone - but the liberalisation of broadcasting is another matter. Following a Supreme Court ruling earlier this year against the government's monopoly of the airwaves, the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting is taking initiatives that may allow private programmers to broadcast from within India, rather than through neighbouring countries as they do now. A related move to scrap the ancient (British) Indian Telegraph Act of 1885 may also give a new lease of life to the country's emerging data communications sector (see Monopolies and free speech, Freeing the airwaves, Bandwidth restraint).
India's new information industry, then, consists of computer software and hardware, communications and broadcasting, along with a small though growing export of services to large but downsizing companies in Europe and the USA (see Not just software). There has been no single source of comprehensive coverage of this industry's place in the world. Until now - for the Indian Techonomist aims to provide news and analysis of the policies, law and market conditions that affect the information industry within India; and also how India's information industry, in turn, affects the world.
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