Talking Point
Bugtown UK

India is a country which appears to be lagging in Y2K preparedness. It is ranked in the third tier by the Gartner Group, which estimates breakdowns in half of Indian companies.

The US State Department, however, points out that India is not heavily reliant on computers. Any problems are expected to be at state or regional level, rather than in the national systems.

The general unpreparedness might come as a surprise to those who know India's reputation for producing excellent software, but this strength is also part of India's weakness.

Most Indian software is exported - the value of programs sold overseas is double the value of that consumed domestically. Some of the software which London Electricity uses, for example, comes from India.

And ironically, many of the millennium bug upgrades being put in place by banks and other financial service companies in the UK and US - rated further along in Y2K development - are being carried out in India.

According to Rusi Brij, vice-president of Satyam Computer Services in Hyderabad, "Y2K has been a godsend" to the Indian computer industry, but this has not necessarily helped India deal with the problem at home.

Brain drain

As well as many Indian firms being employed by overseas companies and governments, India faces a constant brain drain.

Gartner's analysis includes the observation that "many of the programmers have not been there" to solve the problems.

The reason is the disparity in pay, which leads firms like Satyam to levy a 200,000 rupee (3,000 or $5,000) bond on new employees, which is not returned if they leave within two years.

A graduate software engineer with two years experience earns about 20,000 rupees or 300/$500 a month in India. This figure is 10 times the local average, but well below the US rate of around $4,000 a month.

Despite such conditions, the company estimates that most of its programmers leave after three years.

Many Indian programmers prefer to go to the US - 10,000 a year from Hyderabad alone - to earn big money and return only when they wish to settle down.

UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office report

 Compliances Rate 50% (Gartner)
 Gartner Infastructure Problem
 Distribution  Impact
 Power  Moderate  Moderate
 Phones  Moderate  Moderate
 Gas  Isolated  Moderate
 Air  Moderate  Moderate
 Oil  Isolated  Moderate
 Food  Isolated  Moderate
 Water  Isolated  Moderate
 Govt  Moderate  Severe
 Banks  Isolated  Moderate
 Unrest  Isolated  Moderate
 Trade  Isolated  Severe
Brazil | China | India | Israel | Italy | Japan | Kenya | Nigeria | United Kingdom | United States
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