Union Budget 2020: A plethora of Indian start-ups have been using new technologies such as artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning to defray costs and address challenges, and now the government is also catching up in the game. This was the first Budget where finance minister
Nirmala Sitharaman announced that the focus of the government would be on the new economy. She highlighted “proliferation of technologies, especially analytics, machine learning, robotics, bioinformatics and artificial intelligence” was one of the developments the government is mindful of and aims to work towards in the coming years.
To this effect, the government has announced plans to bring out a policy to build data park centres across the country. The move will help the government keep data in India and also allow setting up of a data industry in the country on a large scale. At present, only a handful of players such as Microsoft, Google and Amazon have their servers in India, and that, too, on a limited scale. Incentives for setting up of data parks will help them expand capacity and also provide impetus to new players to set up centres.
More so, it will also play to the government’s demand on data localisation, which is going to fructify with coming of the Data Protection Bill. As companies would be required to store personal data, data business is only going to increase. Processing and analysis of data will help employ many and further help our workforce develop and improve their skills. Incentives may also lead to storing of non-personal data in the country, which the companies are in any case allowed to take outside government jurisdiction.
More important is the recognition of research in quantum computing and allied fields. There has been a focus on quantum computing since last year when Google announced quantum supremacy. A leap in the area would mean more applications for the technology and development of native quantum machines. While the government has allocated Rs 8,000 crore over five years under the National Mission on Quantum Technologies and Applications — less when compared with developed nations — given India’s penchant of developing low-cost solutions, this may suffice.
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More important, it should open new avenues of data processing and cybersecurity. The government also announced the use of AI and machine learning for the National Policy on Official Statistics, which it said would use technologies to improve the accuracy and reliability of data. The finance minister also extolled the benefits of data analytics owing to its use in tax fraud cases. The revenue department found 931 cases of fraud in input tax credit using data. While the government will be using more such measures as the FM highlighted, one can expect the proliferation of this technology to other uses.
The use of AI/ML for Ayushman Bharat, as the FM said, will further help in cleaning of records. The government has already been running a pilot with SAS, MFX, LexisNexis, Optum and Greenojo, a further push would mean the creation of health ID and health record for each person.