Budget 2018: Arun Jaitley's fifth full budget is not just farmer-friendly but is for Digital India too
Arun Jaitley has doubled allocation on Digital India programme to Rs 3,073 crore in 2018-19 in his Budget speech
Ever since the Narendra Modi-led government took the charge in May 2014, the most repeated and reiterated theme has been India’s transformation as a digital nation. Aside from the very campaign of Digital India and Bharat Net programmes, harsh steps like demonetisation were also announced to push this digital dream further. No wonder, even in a pro-Bharat pre-election budget too, the government continued to pump in steam in desired dose into our journey towards a digital world.
With all due respect for the measures taken for the farm, education and health sectors, the budget should also be seen as a positive statement on India’s resolve to transform itself into a digital nation, on par with the developed world, by adopting new cutting edge technologies and moving into 5G. This time, Finance Minister Arun Jaitely has not just picked up from where he left in the last budget to push digitisation, but went a few steps further to enable India catch up with the rest of the world by adopting the new technologies.
First, he has doubled the allocation on the Digital India program to Rs 3,073 crore in 2018-19, so that campaign goes uninterrupted. It is an achievement that the Bharat Net programme in its first phase has already covered 2.5 lakh villages. Given the commitment, the government can smoothly reach its target of setting up 5 lakh Wi-Fi hotspots which will provide broadband access to 5 crore rural citizens. A whopping Rs 10,000 crore allocation for augmenting telecom infrastructure will go a long way to hook entire India to the dream digital highway. Budget says that the Bharat Net project will connect 2.5 lakh gram panchayats by March 2019.
Secondly, the government has to be applauded for giving due attention to pursue Digital India dream in the budget that was expected to be a populist and pro-farmer statement. The budget showed the commitment of the government to move towards an 'inclusive digital country’, where rural India also gets its share along with the urban world.
What was more exciting to me in the budget was the intent shown to acknowledge and assimilate the new waves in digital world. Robotics, artificial intelligence, internet of things, blockchain technology and big data for the first time got due attention from the government and it clearly shows that the government is not agnostic to the new digital technologies.
The measures for further thrust on digital intensity to graduate from black board to digital board, push for a knowledge society, proposed programme to streamline the efforts in cutting edge technologies like AI, machine learning, 3D printing, IoT etc, establishing 5G test bed at Chennai IIT, mission on cyber physical systems, stress on big data analysis etc all augur well for India.
Adoption of these technologies will surely put India on top with the developed countries. The global economy is transforming into digital and India cannot lag behind. Technology will be the biggest trigger for India to emerge as one of the top three powerful economies. Given all these positives, the present budget should not be seen just as a populist Bharat-friendly one, but also be viewed as a one for Digital India.
Suresh Venkatachari is Chairman & CEO, 8K Miles Software Services Ltd.
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