Can Budget 2018 Offer Respite To Tech Sector?
Union Budget 2018 that was expected to cater mostly to the needs of farmers and the rural population ahead of 2019 elections, also underscored the importance and use of technology in various spheres of business and citizen’s lives. Finance Minister Arun Jaitley, said in his budget speech on Thursday that the government proposed a slew of technology measures to boost India to a digital economy, including the use of blockchain technology to encourage digital payments and curb the use of cryptocurrency, setting up of a national program to encourage artificial intelligence [AI] and providing easy internet access to villages.
“Benefits to the poor have been targeted more effectively with use of digital technology,” Jaitley said adding that technology underpins multiple proposals in the budget, for the fiscal year that starts April 1, most of which relate to the existing projects, but also got more incremental attention, both in terms of money allocated, and the purpose it has solved.
For instance, the some 22,000 semi-formal village markets, or ‘haats’ will be upgraded to village agriculture markets and linked to e-NAM, an electronic backbone launched in 2016 and planned as a country-wide agriculture market — hence the name electronic National Agriculture Market.This is expected to help the vast majority of Indian farmers — 86 percent, who are small and marginal ones — get better access to markets. An agro-market infrastructure fund of Rs 2,000 crore will be set up for this purpose.
Thrust on education
In education, the FM said “technology will be the biggest driver” in boosting quality and we propose to increase the digital intensity in education and move gradually from ‘black board’ to ‘digital board.’”
As As Col. Rajendra Prasad Nadella, Co-Founder, Managing Director, iScholar said, “Education for once got due attention from the finance minister in the budget speech. Mr Jaitley acknowledged that technology will be the biggest driver in improving the quality of education. Among other major announcements are Eklavya schools in tribal districts on the lines of Navodaya schools, integrated B Ed, initiative for teachers training. Announcement of five lakh WiFi hot-spots in rural areas will enable access to high quality education to even even rural regions of the country.”
In higher education, Minister Jaitley proposed to kick off spending Rs 100,000 crore through the four years starting April 1 on an initiative named Revitalising Infrastructure and Systems in Education (RISE). A Higher Education Financing Agency is also to be set up. To encourage talented engineers to take up research and teaching, a new plan called Prime Minister’s Research Fellows (PMRF) will be launched to identify 1,000 “best B.Tech students” each year, from premier institutions and provide them facilities to pursue PhDs in the Indian Institutes of Technology and Indian Institute of Science, “with a handsome fellowship.”
Vijay Thadani, VC and MD, NIIT Ltd commented that this one is a progressive budget with the right emphasis on training of teachers, use of technology and funding for research. “Among the positive steps for the education sector, Revitalising Infrastructure and Systems in Education (RISE) by 2022 with a total investment of Rs 1,00,000 crore in next four years stood out. The fact that the Higher Education Financing Agency (HEFA) would be suitably structured for funding this initiative is a much appreciated provision,” he said.
According to Prabhakar Chaudhary, MD - HAL Robotics said, ”Emphasizing Digital India powered over AI and by allocating substantial fund, this government has seriously understood the need and capability of technology. It’s great to see that government is recognising future technology for building nations future. Not only this helps in job creation but also advances the nation in competitive global space.”
L&T Technology Services, CEO & MD, Dr. Keshab Panda added, “We welcome the government’s thrust on encouraging R&D pursuits in the areas of AI, machine learning, robotics and edge analytics. This move will further leapfrog the innovations in this space that is significantly driven by Indian companies and will place the country at the centre of global digital transformation focus.”
Anil Valluri, President, NetApp India & SAARC sees the budget as a continued thrust on transformation. ”The focus on wide scale broadband access, on Machine learning, AI and robotics, on R&D as well as skilling, and on Smart Cities will keep pushing India’s Digital agenda, well supported by the additional fund allocation. It is a quietly progressive budget, and timed well to focus on readying all cross sections of Indian society to reap the benefits of the future.”
Blockchains to power digital economy
The government does not consider cryptocurrency as legal and will take all measures against its illegal use, said Finance Minister Arun Jaitley while presenting the Union Budget 2018. The government, he added, will explore the use of blockchain technology to add muscle to the digital economy. Cryptocurrencies were in limelight last year with multi-fold returns. The country was expecting some clarity on cryptocurrencies from the government.
Rather than restricting cryptocurrencies, they can be regulated to prevent any adverse impact and risks while exploring blockchain side by side and leverage opportunities which are available with new concepts and technologies that they bring to the table.”
Ajeet Khurana, Head, Blockchain and Cryptocurrency Committee of India says, ‘Hearing the Finance Minister talk about Cryptocurrency on Budget day is clear indication of how important and widespread this technological innovation has become in India. BACC welcomes the statement, and reaffirms our unstinting assistance to the Government, and all regulators, in helping evolve a robust ecosystem for Cryptocurrencies.’
A step up to cyber security
The government said it would up its focus on cyber capabilities, including developing and researching new technologies that can be leveraged for the future. He said that the Department of Science and Technology will launch a mission on cyberspace to encourage big data, cybersecurity and robotics with an allocation of Rs 3073 crore. In addition, the FM said the NITI Aayog will establish a program to encourage artificial intelligence and that the government will set up 5 lakh hotspots, with an outlay of Rs 10,000 crore.
Padmanabha Krishnamurthy, CFO at Paladion Networks commented, “The continued focus on digital growth by the Government including a special focus on Cyber Security with the launch of Centers of Excellence is a huge necessity for India and I am happy to see it in this Budget.”
Keith Martin, Head, Asia Pacific, Corporate Business, F-Securetoo added that the announced the mission on cyberspace which will be launched in support of the establishment of centres of excellence and stated that the allocation to the Digital India programme has been doubled to Rs. 3073 crore in 2018-19. This is huge step by the government with financial backing to make India a cyber-secure nation as today, nearly all aspects of our lives are only, with everything from financial transactions to confidential personal data being accessible from every device increasing the risks of businesses and individuals to becomes easy targets to cyber criminals.
“Looking at the overall picture, I feel that the approach is more fragmented at the moment and outcome and objectives of digital India needs to be better connected with the investments which are being made,” he concluded.
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