Yes, the budget may not have had the big bang news everyone was expecting, but to me it is a well thought through and a very deliberate expression of strategic intent for long-term growth. With respect to technology, I see two clear and overarching themesscaling Indias technology ecosystem and weaving technology into the operational fibre of multiple industries and government departments.
It is the ecosystem piece thats very clear right up front. I can see that this government has attempted to incentivise multiple pieces of the ecosystem puzzle, starting with local manufacturing. By altering duty structures the government wants to promote more local manufacturing of PCs, LCD TVs and telecom equipment. Indian entrepreneurs and assemblers ought to take advantage of these moves and make local technology products more
affordable and easily available at the grassroots level.
Related to this is the much-talked about R10,000 fund that will aid domestic startups focusing on the small and medium business market. Combined with another R500 crore to
encourage technology-enabled agri-businesses, rural and underprivileged entrepreneurs, I feel the time is ripe for Indian entrepreneurs to start up and break out.
Within the ecosystem theme also count the initiatives to take broadband and IT skills into Indias villages and classrooms. Theres much-cited evidence that shows how broadband penetration and computer literacy can increase a countrys GDP. Lastly I noted a new and keen awareness in the budget toward software products. Given how software is the end-user feature that drives purchase and use of devices, this too will aid the virtuous priming of ecosystem. Thus from manufacturing to entrepreneurship to broadband to education, the budget shows a willingness to consider all pieces of Indias technology ecosystem that is welcome.
If the ecosystem theme was about nurturing entrepreneurs, plugging broadband holes and encouraging local software development, the other themethe use of technology as an efficiency and governance enabler is about long-term foundation laying. Executed well, this theme will allow subsequent budgets to take much bolder leaps across entire industry sectors.
To begin with, by mandating that all central government ministries and departments digitise their compliance & clearance processes and make available to businesses via a single e-Biz platform by December 2014, the government is aiming for both efficiency and transparency. Prime Minister Modis reputation was built as an efficient and able administrator who used technology to reduce inefficiency and opacity in Gujarat when he was CM. So I am positive this is only the beginning of a long-term e-governance focus.
The extensive use of IT across key priority sectors like education, healthcare and railways will enable higher reach and more efficient processes. From Internet connectivity at stations and in trains, digitising land records, integrating all its computer systems and achieving a paperless office in five years, it is refreshing to see the government act on its promise to make technology a key driver of development in India.
Technology is also the underpinning behind the concept of Smart Cities, a much-needed urban revival concept that the budget has supported. With R7,060 crore for setting up 100 Smart Cities and 7 industrial Smart Cities, we can expect a more efficient and productive urban future for tens of millions of Indian citizens.
Taken together, these two themes the ecosystem and the foundation show an equally committed approach towards both entrepreneurial, logistical aspects as it does towards large-scale, transformational ones. This is a very progressive budget with the right intent and priorities. But its fate will be determined by the quality and speed of execution. I welcome the focus on IT as an enabler for development with open arms. This is a great opportunity for the
Indian IT industry to redefine itself and become a positive contributor to national growth.
The writer is managing director, South Asia, Intel