Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Singapore Fintech Festival : Panel Discussion

At panel discussion at Singapore
The topic of the panel discussion at the Singapore Fintech Festival at Singapore Expo (name of the convention centre) was: India: Opportunities and Challenges in Fintech.

The session was moderated by Ms Ritu Singh of CNBC. Other panelists were from SBI, Axis Bank and Venture Capitalist.

I mentioned that Fintech and Blockchain holds the promise to India with its digitised economy, 99% Adhar coverage of adults, and increasing trend of FinTech adoption. I mentioned that early development was happening in Kolkata (Fintech Hub and Blockchain), Vizag (Fintech) and Mumbai (Fintech City).

Saturday, November 11, 2017

Blockchain For Bengal

Yesterday we had a meeting with various stakeholders in the IT&E Sector and deliberated on the way forward for strategy to be adopted in 2018 for positioning Bengal as a leader in the Global New Technology Eco System.

We recognised that unilateral vertical knowledge silos no longer work: this is the age of networking, clustering and co-working . It is not enough to man a centre with experts knowing C++, Java, Python or Ionic2 codes: there must be inputs from other field specialists as well. With traditional skills of Bengal in mathematics and statistics, with the existence of Indian Statistical Institute as well as other institutions like IIT, IIIT, IIEST,  IIM, Presidency, Science College, Bose Institute, SINP and more, Bengal has been producing a large amount of leadership in Cybersecurity, Fintech and Data Sciences the world over in recent years.

We therefore decided to project the game-changing Blockchain Technology to be the anchor theme for Bengal's strategy in the IT World in the short and medium term. Blockchain has deep linkages to FinTech, Data Sciences and Cybersecurity and indeed all of these are related to each other at a deep level. Blockchains provide secured public databases that are free from cyber attacks. Blockchain Technology is the basis of Bitcoins, Ethereums and Initial Coin Offerings in the realm of FinTech zone. Blockchain is linked to data sciences in public database managements.

A recent report in Economist suggests that the latest frenzy in global markets is cryptocurrency. It is a derivative of Blockchain Technology. The price of the best known cryptocurrency, bitcoin, has risen by 700% last year. ICOs or Initial Coin Offerings have drawn in more than $3.2 billion in crowd-sourced funds this year, as per the report.

In New Town, a FinTech Hub has already been conceptualized, near the Financial Hub, where tech firms and New Technology Ventures will be provided space to work with Financial Institutions - of which 23 have already taken up space in the Finance Hub. A wing of a new building, designed architecturally to be IT friendly, in New Town will house a Centre of Excellence on Cybersecurity. A call has been given to Blockchain experts to create a pilot scheme of land records in Sector 5 and New Town. And West Bengal is participating in the India Pavilion in the Singapore FinTech Festival next week.

Thursday, November 2, 2017

Drone Centre

In New Town Smart City proposal, I had proposed monitoring and surveillance of cleanliness, traffic jams, road repair and solid waste management monitoring using drones. DJI Phantom drones are available with cameras at less than Rs 1 lakh at various e commerce sites. But import of drones - most are Chine made - are not allowed. Very recently, the Civil Aviation Ministry has brought out a draft policy. We went through it today and jotted down our observations. For example, we have suggested that night flying may be allowed for enabling wedding photographs to be taken. We will soon write to DGCA.

In particular, and among others, we will promote designated areas in Kalyani, Falta, Naihati and Kolkata as drone testing and demonstration zones. We will also encourage Sonarpur hardware manufacturing park as a preferred destination for manufacturing drones by giving plots at affordable rates.
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West Bengal is seriously considering to become a hub of drone manufacturing in India. The recently published “Requirements for Operation of Civil Remotely Piloted Aircraft System (RPAS)” was reviewed by IT&E Department and the feedback on the guidelines are being shared with DGCA. Department of IT & E, Government of West Bengal and Webel, is in consultation with different organisations focusing on drone manufacturing, assembling and providing training on Unmanned Aircraft flying. They are also taking the opinion of the different authorities like Kolkata Police, Kolkata Municipal Corporation and other eminent personalities experienced in Defence and Air Operations. The State Government is aiming to leverage the existing infrastructure in Kalyani, Naihati, Falta to make the state as the Drone Manufacturing epicenter of the country.

Thursday, October 19, 2017

Technology for Cities : Facial Recognition

Discussion with IBM team, Police, Hidco and NKDA yesterday, 19th October 2017 at Hidco
We had a brainstorming session yesterday with IBM team led by Mr Anindya Mitra, Director, Sandipan Sarkar, Executive Architect IBM, Assistant Commissioner of Police, and HIDCO/NKDA senior officers. The objective was to pinpoint use of cutting edge technology for helping the man on the street. I mentioned that using AI (Artificial Intelligence) and Facial Recognition techniques through live analysis of CCTV feeds people committing crimes or petty nuisances could be identified: we could send fine notices to men who committed nuisance on road or dirtied public places. Public spaces would also be safer for women if real-time analysis of CCTV feeds could send alarm to police in live mode. We also talked of using analytics on CCTV in real time to predict traffic accidents / collisions and make the roads safer than now. Preventing traffic jams before they happen would also be a desired outcome.
Executive Software Architect IBM Mr S Sarkar said that access to photographic archives like driving licences, aadhar etc would be helpful. I mentioned that the 9th Sep 2017 issue of The Economist carried a cover story entitled "Nowhere to Hide: What Machines can tell from your face" and that we could harness the advances for real life benefits.
The IBM team would  visit the control room of Bidhannagar Police Commissionarate and revert to us with a concept note.

Friday, October 13, 2017

A jewel in the sky: Biswa Bangla Convention Centre to be inaugurated today 13 Oct 2017

Hon'ble Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee will inaugurate the Biswa Bangla Convention Centre today at 6pm. I'll post more photos later. A write-up is given below. See my special comments at end :)
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Government of West Bengal has developed  a state of the art Township  named New Town Kolkata through West Bengal Housing Infrastructure Development Corporation Ltd. (WBHIDCO). The township  has a designed  population  of 10.00 lakhs  with 5.00 lakhs floating  people.   Major infrastructure  of the township are almost complete including roads, electricity, drainage, sewerage system etc. with modern facilities.
It has undertaken  a considerable  number of projects which are unique  in the country such as :
Eco Park :  It has developed  a huge Eco  Park titled as ‘Prikriti Tirtha’  with around  480 acres of land including  water bodies of around 100 acres.
Mother’s Wax Museum is developed as a great attraction to the visitors .  It has also value added features to the City of Kolkata.
Rabindra Tirtha and Nazrul Tirtha  have been developed  which have become important centres  in the field of art and culture of Bengal.
A well designed park  named “Swapno Bhor” has been developed for senior people of the city . Besides a Senior citizens home named “Snehodiya’ is coming up.
It has also become an important non-polluted industrial center of  Kolkata  where around 70,000 people are already  working in the IT & ITeS sector.
A well designed  Financial & Legal hub is coming up  very rapidly.
A ‘Business Club’  is developed  by NKDA with modern facilities like swimming pools, Tennis court, Basket Ball court, Gymnasium , badminton court etc.
To give the city a smart and modern shape, Wi-Fi facility is on along the Biswa Bangla Sarani .
WBHIDCO has also developed Eco Urban Village along with   water bodies .
Biswa Bangla Convention Centre:
A  huge Convention Centre titled as “Biswa Bangla Convention Centre” has been developed recently which has  added another  valued feather to the city and is scheduled to be opened by Hon’ble Chief Minister, West Bengal  on 13th October, 2017.   A 100 plus room  annexed star hotel is also coming up  in the same campus.
The major features of this Convention Centre are :
A mega Convention Hall with a seating capacity of 3200 people.
2 large Exhibition-cum-Banquet halls with a total carpet area of 9050 sq.ft.
2 small  Exhibition-cum-Banquet halls with a total carpet area of 5110 sq.ft.
Spacious pre-function area in 3 floors having a carpet area of 12500 sq.ft. in each floor.
2 smaller capacity auditoriums  each with a seating capacity of 400 people are coming up.
Extensive Food and beverage facilities during conferences catered through provision of banquet  kitchens and satellite kitchens  at all the levels of conferences.
A Multi-level car parking facility is available.
In the meantime,   already booking enquiries till 2019 are being received and dates are being blocked by various organizations for professional conventions and other uses which is most encouraging.
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My special comments:
This is the only huge auditorium that is located in the sky: the stage / dias is at 17 metre level - at level 4 - supported by stilts. The idea is to make its towering height visible from a long distance.  The shape is like a gem, a diamond, by using 20m projection for the upper gallery. See the logo of the Convention Centre in the picture above. The visual impact is unique and stunning. As if someone is holding aloft a gem in the sky with an outstretched hand.

The space below the elevated auditorium contains a focal atrium that is so beautiful that it has to be experienced. Its shape reminds subtly of a jewel. A grand staircase with subtle white-on-white designs descends to the hollow to the level zero which has 3 banquet halls and art gallery. Two banquet halls have towering heights that add to the awe. A fourth hall is on level 2. The entrance at level two welcomes with a black-on-black granite pattern into a scenario of tungsten bulbed ceiling (modernity) and Bangla handicrafts (culture) on the walls and all around. A conch shell installation welcomes the visitor to the grand  descending staircase.

There is an art gallery at level 0 and exhibition spaces in level 0 and 1 and 4 where the main auditorium is located. 3,200 seats: 2,000 in lower tier, 1,000 on upper. A distance from the last audience so large that the audio electronic circuit has a delay introduced to prevent echo to allow sound waves which travel slow to catch up.

The dais is so large that that the height is equivalent to a three storied house. All wings, backdrops and cyclorama are motor controlled. A building management centre keeps an eye on what's happening through 100 CCTVs.

The top of the 5 level car parking is an elevated podium with green lawns and infinity water pool - infinity because water continuously rolls out of the edge like an unending waterfall.

No wonder, BBCC is getting booking enquiries till 2019. The first convention of 3,000 doctors will take place in November this year. It is an important addition in making Kolkata a preferred M.I.C.E destination.
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Wednesday, October 4, 2017

Online popularity of Pujas

NKDA organised a smart online voting system to judge the best pujas. The idea was also to test the community networking in New Town, the effectivity of crowdsourcing. We had given very little lead time: it was announced the day after the Mahalaya day at a meeting with Puja organisers of New Town (see my blog post few days earlier at http://principalsecretarysblog.blogspot.in/2017/09/online-smart-voting-for-best-puja-in.html). The last date of voting was midnight of Dashami.

A total of about 4,000 votes were polled. The top six on the popularity scale were:

1. NBCC Vibgyor Tower
2. Eastern Grove
3. Alakai Block
4. Animikha
5. Balaka
6. CE Block

Prizes would be given in December in course of New Town Mela.

Tuesday, October 3, 2017

IT Golf in December

Planning for IT Golf: Yesterday 2 Oct 2017

Yesterday, we reviewed the outcome of the just concluded "India Learn Golf Week" where the Eco Park Golf Arena also took part. Members of Indian Golf Industry Association (including Mr P K Bhattacharya, DG, IGIA), Corporates (including Mr S Mukherjee of Idea Cellular)  and New Town Business Club Members (Mr S Neogy, Mr D Sarkar) as well as Golf Knowledge Partner Himalayan Footprints (Mr Neil Law) assembled and we took a review. We noted that although a lot of inquiries had come, because of the rains and the Pujas, not many people actually turned up. Many requested for a repeat event after a few weeks.

Going by the feedback received, we decided yesterday to organise a "Corporate Golf Day" on Friday 17th November arena when corporates mostly from New Town Rajarhat and Sector 5 Salt Lake would be invited to take part in an Induction Golf for novices and longest-drive competition for veterans. There would be no charges but only corporates would be allowed to nominate individual players. A CCC (Corporate Cycling Competition) was organised recently (13 August 2017) at Sector 5 Nabadiganta very successfully with more than 300 participants from corporates of Sector 5.

This would be followed by an IT Golf on 7-9 Deceber 2017. A large number of Chief Informatics Officers are expected to be around because of the Infocom Event to be held at ITC Kolkata and we decided to make the Driving Range free for use by delegates on all three days. The IT Minister and senior officers of Webel, NKDA, HIDCO, NDITA, Indian Golf Union and IT&E Department would be requested to network with the players to project Bengal as a destination. I would, of course, be there all three days.