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Guwahati: The World Bank is extending financial assistance to Manipur for promotion of digital skills and securing the foundations for digital government in the state.

The Bank, through an official email, confirmed that it will provide $46 million for the Manipur Infotech eNabled Development Project, which will help the state to take advantage of digital technologies holistically to transform its economy and e-service delivery. The total cost of the project is $67.50 million.

Sources said the Manipur government in its 2017 Industrial and Investment Policy has already identified IT and IT enabled services (ITeS) as “thrust areas” and Manipur Vision 2030, which sets inclusive access to digital technology and its use in education, agriculture, to facilitate trade as key objectives.

The government is especially keen on supporting digital economy development as one of the few possible pathways to create jobs and enable economic growth, given the challenges of climate change and the impacts on agriculture, limitations to the traditional growth-supporting sectors, and physical connectivity constraints in the medium term.

“Manipur has remained constrained in employment generation and in entrepreneurial activity. This is due to limited private investment, geographical isolation due to weak physical and digital connectivity, and limited industrialization over the past decades. The unemployment rate in 2021 was 9.5 percent, the second highest in the NER. Data from 2012 suggests that only three thousand people—equal to 0.1 percent of the total population is employed in the private, organized sector, while over 60,000 students are enrolled in graduate and higher education programs in the state. The public sector and the unorganized sector contribute to a significant part of employment. Limited economic opportunities in the state have led to Manipur having the highest ratio of migrant outflows to inflow (almost four) in Northeast India,” the Bank said in its report.

It says the Centre’s “Act East” policies have led to various infrastructure development initiatives in the Northeast Region (NER) to find new magnets for investment and sources of jobs. In particular, the Centre has sought to position Manipur as India’s “Gateway to the East” and projects are now underway to improve railway and telecommunications connectivity with the rest of the country.

The Bank in its report says that the Manipur government seeks digital transformation of the state as an enabler of economic growth and inclusion, and of improved service delivery. The state seeks to develop its digital economy within the context of the larger Digital India program and the Centre’s Digital North East Vision 2022. This effort has also been supported and recognised by the Centre with ”the hope that the state will emerge as an IT Hub of Northeast India”.

The Bank, however, says Manipur lags in digital inclusion, digital service delivery, and the digital industry. Digital inclusion, including access to the internet and digital literacy, are limited.

“The state lags in the use of digital technologies in public service delivery due to limited development of core digital infrastructure and limited digital transformation of services. And the development of the local digital innovation and entrepreneurship ecosystem remains limited due to a lack of skilled workers and missing elements of the enabling environment, including infrastructure, funding, and facilities. Consequently, Manipur’s ability to take advantage of digital technologies holistically to transform its economy and e-service delivery is limited,” it says.

The first component of the project is digital industry, skills and  jobs, which includes three sub components: improving access to digital skills and job placement programs, encouraging digital startups, and promoting investments in digital industries.

The second component is broadband connectivity, access, and use, which will support policy and regulatory measures that will expand access to affordable broadband, and through investments in connectivity infrastructure and in digital literacy. It has three components: reducing the cost of broadband deployment, stimulating broadband infrastructure investment, and boosting digital literacy and access to affordable technology.

The third component is the foundations of digital government, which includes three sub components: investing in data infrastructure, enhancing cybersecurity and data sharing, and implementing specific digital G2B services.

The Manipur government has signed MoUs with Tata Technologies, Kalinga Institute of Industrial Technology and HCL Techbee to support innovation and carry out events to promote entrepreneurship. It is setting up a ‘Special Economic Zone’ that will create employment opportunities for 15,00-2,000 people.

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The Cyber Corporation of Manipur Limited (CCML) will serve as the project implementing entity (PIE). CCML is owned and governed by the Department of Information Technology.

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