3. Remove Anti-dumping duty on import of old PCs
There is a $200 anti-dumping duty on the import of old computers into India. Why? To protect a non-existent domestic manufacturing industry? India needs cheaper computers. If Intel and Microsoft, who between them control the processor and operating system for the computers, will not bring down their price points for the Indian market, we can at least ensure competition for them. Non-consumption and piracy are not solutions. While open-source software provides a possible alternative to Microsoft’s Windows and Office, the cost of hardware still remains an issue.
My suggestion: get rid of the $200 anti-dumping duty on the import of used computers. While a recent notification does exempt some categories, it needs to be extended to all imports of old computers. Or if the government does not want to lose revenue, levy the same duty on them as exists on other computer imports (25% or so). Of course, the ideal scenario would be to eliminate duties altogether on computers, but that’s a bigger decision.
What will this do for India? The world (primarily US, Europe and Japan) are disposing off tens of millions of computers every year. These PCs are hard to dispose off and have become an environment hazard for many countries. For the cost of just shipping (which will come to about $60-70 about Rs 3,200 – per computer if done in bulk), we can get these computers in India. Add Rs 800 as customs charges (rather than Rs 9,000 as it is now), and we have a computer for Rs 4,000. Even if only 4 in 5 work, the cost still does not exceed Rs 5,000. This is the 5KPC.
The key is to use this not as a standalone desktop but as a network device a thin client. This can be the foundation for deploying millions of computers for today’s non-consumers those users who cannot afford one because the current price of Rs 15-20,000 for a PC is way too expensive for them. Intel and others should back this move because it will spur sales of servers (thin clients needs thick servers). More importantly, it spurs a domestic industry where none exists by opening up new markets for technology.
4. Standardise Indian language computing efforts
There are too many overlapping and parallel projects going on across the country to get Indian language support in the computer operating systems. It would be nice if there can be a standardisation of these efforts. There are many elements which need to come together here: fonts, Unicode support in the character set, translations, keyboard design, application support. If the various efforts can be coordinated together, it will help spur the use of local language computing and content development in these languages. India has plenty of languages to go around for all!
Tomorrow: Letter to Arun Shourie (continued)