The general consensus on this year’s Budget is its strong rural focus and the IT sector is no exception. Use of the unique identification number as the base platform to connect farmers to e-market portals and a new rural digital literacy scheme are just some of the highlights.
The use of technology to improve the lives of the poor seems to be driving force behind some of the announcements made as part of this year’s Budget speech by Indian finance minister Arun Jaitley.
The vision is to create a social security platform to ensure financial assistance is accessed by the intended beneficiaries in remote areas of the country. A new “Targeted Delivery of Financial and Other Subsidies, Benefits and Services” bill is to be introduced with the aim of delivering this goal using the Aadhar framework or the unique identification network created by the government to bring every Indian citizen on to a common e-platform.
To ensure the benefit of minimum support price (MSP) is accessed by farmers in all parts of the country, the finance minister announced an online procurement system to be undertaken through the Food Corporation of India to bring in “transparency and convenience”.
For dairy farmers in particular, he announced an advanced breeding technology with ‘E-Pashudhan Haat’ or an e-market portal.
Bringing land records on to a database is a major challenge with the National Land Record Modernisation Programme being revamped under the Digital India initiative. It will be implemented as a central sector scheme with effect from April 2016 with an additional $22 million allocated for the purpose.
Digital literacy was another buzzword with a new Digital Literacy Mission Scheme for rural India to cover millions of additional households within the next three years.
As Suneet Singh Tuli, CEO of DataWind, had told India Inc. recently: “We believe that a strong Digital India is impossible without empowering people in the rural areas and such can be attained with a well-planned Internet penetration programme.
“The aspirations of rural India are no different from those in developed India as their basic needs are the same – access to vital goods and services, education, affordable technology and connectivity solutions that help improve their standard of living. Meaningful action needs to be taken to ensure that last mile connectivity is achieved to provide internet access at the most affordable rates.
“We’re pleased with the broad expansion of the social net for those at the bottom of the pyramid.”
Ravinder P. Singh, director, solutions strategy & business development, IoT, smart Cities & digitisation, Dell India, described the digital literacy programme as a “stepping stone to achieve next level of human capital transformation”.
He said: “India is going through a massive transformation with Smart Cities, Make in India and Digital India initiatives that will have far reaching impact in the growth of urban and rural India. Technology is not only the backbone for these initiatives but also a critical stakeholder for the success and sustainability of these programs.”
The Budget also marked a move towards e-procurement with the creation of a technology-driven platform to facilitate procurement of goods and services by various ministries and agencies of the government.
Overall, there was a promise to reduce costs and improve competitiveness of the information technology hardware sector with lower customs and excise duties.
Debjani Ghosh, vice-president, sales and marketing group and managing director for South Asia, Intel, said: “This budget, unlike any other, has not treated technology in isolation but integrated the effective use of technology across all the strategic imperatives in keeping with the intent of a Digital India. This budget has laid emphasis on governance reforms and ease of doing business, while highlighting the need for enhancing educational skills in order to make India a knowledge based economy.”
Nasscom president R. Chandrashekhar added: “The initiatives announced combined with swift implementation of Digital India will help to digitise India and provide effective citizen services. We would urge the government to move forward at a swift pace and build an effective PPP (public-private-partnership) model.”
On the taxation front, there were moves to continue to simplify procedures including expanding the pilot initiative of ‘e-Sahyog’ with a view to reduce compliance cost, especially for small taxpayers. The ‘e-Sahyog’ scheme provides an online mechanism to resolve mismatches in income-tax returns without requiring taxpayers to attend the income-tax office.
Jaitley said: “Government plans to use technology in taxation department in a big way to make life simpler for a law abiding citizen, and also for data mining to track tax evaders.”
Rahul Agarwal, managing director of Lenovo India, lauded Jaitley’s strong emphasis on technology in all “development areas”.
He said: “Technology has been recognised as an important enabler across initiatives ranging from agriculture to skill development to PDS to public procurement. Also, the announcements on the Rural Digital Literacy and the Digital Saksharta Abhiyan are positive strides to bolster the ‘Digital India’ vision.”Tagged: Investment, Digital India, Infrastructure