What Changes will we see in India’s Digital Sector post Budget 2018

By Sabe Tibbitts

Digital India Programme

Arun Jaitley’s 1st February budget doubled the coming years spend on the Digital India Programme to £30m (INR 3,073 crore). He said, “Technologies such as machine learning, artificial intelligence and others are the technologies of the future and Niti Aayog will establish a national programme to conduct research and development in these areas”.

The budget outlined plans to establish Centres of Excellence on robotics, Artificial Intelligence (AI), the Internet of things/big data, quantum communication, and other areas.

The NITI Aayog, India’s National Institution for Transforming India, has been working to build an ecosystem for utilising AI in major sectors. Now it is to initiate a national programme on AI aiming to make India a global leader in AI research, with a focus on adopting AI to address problems faced in developing countries.

The NITI Aayog is also working on a platform named ‘India Chain’, a shared India-specific blockchain infrastructure to enable blockchain developers to build social applications. Partner organisations from the private sector and India’s states are being identified for this as well as implementing proof-of-concepts utilising blockchain technology across various sectors.

The Indian Department of Science and Technology is to start a programme on cyber security and set-up a Centre of Excellence. As data will be sourced from various State and Central Government ministries, it should meet international security safeguarding standards for the privacy of individuals and other entities.

Interpreting the 2018 Budget

The Government of India’s Digital India finance is intended to:

1. build foundations which can stimulate private sector investment. The National Data and Analytics Portal is to be the single source of sectoral data for sharing among different organisations (individuals and public and private entities). This will support the development of AI applications and the Government’s efforts to make India a world leader in AI and blockchain;
2. focus on India specific technology advances. More advanced economies have an incentive to make this huge investment in new technology development to reduce relatively high labour costs. But, for India, the prospect of reducing employment through new technology is uncomfortable. Creating employment is a key objective of the Indian government. Not least due to the forthcoming State election and the General Election which is due by May 2019; and
3. focus is on government operational improvement. For example, a Niti Aayog strategy paper on the application of blockchain in India, will outline GoI schemes which stand to benefit from the technology.

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