Certain technology services, IT hardware manufacturing allowed from April 20: Here are details

Written by Karishma Mehrotra
| New Delhi |

Published: April 15, 2020 12:52:49 pm

MHA revised guidelines for lockdown after April 20: IT and IT-enabled services, including e-commerce companies will be allowed to function.(Image source: PTI)

In the Home Ministry guidelines issued on Wednesday, certain commercial and private establishments will be allowed to continue operations after April 20. These include IT and IT enabled services with up to 50 per cent strength, data and call centres for Government activities, Gram Panchayat level Common Service Centers (CSCs), and e-commerce companies, including vehicle permissions. The manufacturing of IT hardware has also been allowed in the list of permissions. The guidelines do not include private call centres.

In the first set of lockdown guidelines announced on March 24, “telecommunications, internet services, broadcasting and cable services, IT and IT enabled services only (for essential services) and as far as possible to work from home” was allowed. “Delivery of all essential goods” was also allowed.

After these guidelines were announced, numerous online delivery staff were assaulted and stopped from traveling. Local bodies such as Delhi Police and Ahmedabad Municipal Corporation stepped in to institute mechanisms for allowing home deliveries. Still, the companies only resumed operations in a staggered manner, concerned for the safety of their workers.

Flipkart Supermart “delayed delivery slots due to an unforeseen increase in demand”,. Other e-commerce companies such as Amazon have had to limit deliveries to those that are essential. In major cities, delivery persons from Amazon, FlipKart, Swiggy, and Zomato are the ones continuing to work.

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The new guidelines may help ease the hiccups that these companies experienced after the announcement of the first lockdown phase.

Under the lockdown scenario, several companies and establishments have continued their operations by having their employees work from home. This shift has tested the country’s Internet bandwidth, and has required government data centre operations to Silicon Valley companies to take measures in the changing landscape.

Government bodies themselves have also been shifting online, with several key meetings happening over video conferencing. The National Informatics Center (NIC) has been utilising an American-based company Videyo, while many other government arms use Cisco, Zoom, and Skype to continue operations. The IT Ministry recently put out calls for a domestic built video conferencing software.

The NIC, being an essential service to government operations working from home, allowed officials to access e-filing systems remotely through a Virtual Private Network (VPN).

In late March, digital industry stakeholders met to discuss the continuity of the cellular network. In the cases of companies such as YouTube, mobile videos were defaulted to standard definition. As for others such as TikTok and Star India, the entities removed the high definition viewing option altogether. Other signatories include Sony, Facebook, Viacom18, Amazon Prime Video, Zee, Netflix, MX Player, and Hotstar.

Facebook also announced reduced bit rates (the speed of uploading and downloading) for videos, noting a surge of over 50 per cent globally. IT Departments in certain states, such as Kerala, have also taken steps to ensure the steady flow of data traffic.

India currently has roughly 500 million online users. India’s gadget manufacturing felt the lockdown effect, due to the closure of factories and assembly sites. CSCs provide citizens with digital facilities in rural areas.

In the US, a pledge by companies such as Google Fiber, AT&T, and Verizon ensured no termination of connectivity services even if users can’t pay their bills.

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