By Sreeraman Thiagarajan
The new Union Budget of the decade saw a slew of technology advancement oriented announcement from Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman. Here’s the list of proposals and my analysis thereof.
Rs. 8000 crore allocation for National Mission on Quantum Computing. This puts India in the elite list of countries that are embracing a new frontier in technological advancements. Companies like Google and IBM have barely scratched the surface in creating real-life use cases from quantum computing, but India earmarking more than a billion-dollar for this initiative will give us an edge in the decade to follow.
Artificial Intelligence to beat Tuberculosis by 2025. While fighting Cancer with technology gets more press coverage and sympathy from people, TB is a real threat to the wellbeing of a commoner. 25% of all TB cases in the world are from India and the government looking forward to eradicating that malady from the face of the nation by leveraging ML and AI technology is commendable. Sitharaman plans to integrate AI through the existing Ayushman Bharat scheme.
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Smart cities and democratising electricity. Sitharaman announced five more addition to Smart Cities. The smart in the city starts with the capabilities to measure what’s going on, from traffic movement to water consumption to sanitation, having an analytical overview is the bedrock of a smart city. The proposed pre-paid smart meters fit in like a snappy Lego brick into the Smart City agenda. It also empowers consumers to choose their power supplier based on tariff and consumption patterns. Electrifying move!
More connectivity with Bharat Net. Nearly a billion-dollar outlook to get gram panchayats connected to the world wide web. This means digitally connected homes as well as civic centres like post office and police stations. The new funds of Rs. 6000 crore will enable to add nearly one lakh more to the existing 2.5 lakh panchayats planned. Investment in internet infrastructure pays dividends in the long run; perhaps enjoyed through the rest of the century. Who knows, the next Nadella or Pichai could be from a gram panchayat you had never heard about!
The private sector in data centre parks. The budget saw a proposed policy to enable the private sector to build data centre parks throughout the country. This is a welcome move to large enterprises, Indian or foreign, to startups and tech companies to have a robust local data centre which makes compliance easy while also reducing latency. The STPI society established in India during the end of license raj lead to the growth and scale of IT export companies like Infosys, Wipro, and TCS. The new data centre policy may create such favourable windfall to technology companies and tech-enabled services.
Beyond the policy and monetary level announcements, AI found interesting mentions such as fraud detection in GST returns through deep data analytics. And indirect facilitation of the builders of AI, aka startups, is to get a more conducive environment by relaxation in tax for startups with turnover up to Rs. 100 crore from existing 25 crore, and deferment of taxes on ESOPs which helps companies retain top talent.
The government’s intent and commitment to invest in tech is evidently visible in this Union Budget 2020.
Sreeraman is cofounder of Agrahyah Technologies.
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