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Industry hails doubling of digital allocation

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MUMBAI: One of the key points that came out of Finance Minister Arun Jaitley’s Union Budget 2018-19 was the focus on Digital India. The allocation was doubled to Rs 3073 crore and the budget was clearly beyond wooing voters.

The government has decided to increase digital intensity in education and technology will be the biggest driver in improving quality of education. Jaitley aims to move from blackboard to digital board schools by 2022.

About Rs 14.34 lakh crore is to be spent on rural infrastructure. According to the budget, five lakh Wi-Fi hotspots will be setup to provide broadband access to five crore rural citizens, at the cost of Rs 10,000 crore.

ALTBalaji CMO Manav Sethi said, "It’s a great effort from the government if it’s executed well for connectivity. It is easier but more relevant to connect small villages and towns in India on Internet rather than roads. This connectivity has the potential to impact not only India’s entertainment options but their means of livelihood, healthcare and education."

HAL Robotics MD Prabhakar Chaudhary says that the government has understood the need and capability of technology. “It's great to see that the government is recognising future technology for building the nation’s future. Not only does this help in job creation but also advances the nation in competitive global space.”

Instappy founder & MD Ambika Sharma believes the move with empower society in areas like broadband and mobile connectivity. "Furthermore, the allocation of Rs 10,000 crore for the five lakh WiFi hotspots to provide broadband access to five crore rural citizens is also promising. With nearly 70 per cent of the country’s population living in rural and semi-urban geographies, the move will give the vision of a digital India a big boost and provide businesses an opportunity to upscale."

Staqu CEO and co-founder Atul Rai believes that this year’s budget has not only taken significant steps towards the digital India vision but also towards inculcating the latest technologies like artificial intelligence for the national development. He said, “With NITI Aayog to establish a national programme for artificial intelligence, we look forward to supporting the nation with R&D support and more programmes like ABHED which is already assisting the polices forces with AI capabilities. With the advent of new technologies and the Indian government being equally eager to adopt them, we strongly foresee the nation to be on the road to transformation and emerge as one of the leading digital nations on the world map.”

Said BARC India CEO Partho Dasgupta: "Budget 2018 is clearly focussed on driving rural sector growth. This should result in higher rural incomes and therefore higher standards of living in rural India. Our baseline study indicated that economic prosperity and higher living standards go hand in hand with TV penetration and higher TV consumption. With only 2/3rd of Indian homes having access to TV, there is huge headroom for growth here, and this year’s budget should help drive up TV ownership and consumption in rural India. As head of a tech-driven research company, I am also excited to see government’s focus on machine learning, artificial intelligence and other such technologies of the future. One dampener for industry is the hike in basic customs duty on certain electronic equipment including LCD/LED/OLED screens, which would make TVs more expensive. Our barometers too are likely to get more expensive, and this will raise burden on industry for our planned panel expansion." 

Contradictory to that, nexGTv COO Abhesh Verma opines thinks that doubling the budget for the digital India scheme will be emerging as a major move towards assisting the nation to progress further. He commented, “The second development of investment of Rs 10,000 crore for rural Wi-Fi hotspots, giving five crore citizens access to broadband speed internet by the deployment of five lakh Wi-Fi hotspots should help bring more consumers online, increasing digital consumption of services like OTT, entertainment, banking, and e-commerce. We at nexGTv feel that all these steps are a definite plus for the significant growth of the digital businesses in the country."

In the same track, News18.com editor language Nidheesh Tyagi feels that Arun Jaitley has really shown this government’s serious emphasis for digital India. He said, “An extra Rs 10,000 crore is provided to bring 50 million people through five lakh wifi hotspots in rural areas to this side of the digital divide. I am sure much of this action is going to happen in languages. We hope to see more use of digital payment through mobile spreading in the tier 3 / 4 towns and villages besides more connectivity on mobile, broadband and access to government services. Digitisation of agricultural markets will also benefit some 300 million farmers.” But he feels that more could have been achieved by reforms in telecom sector.

Haptik founder & CEO Aakrit Vaish has a similar opinion as Rai. He commented, “With NITI Aayog to establish a national programme for AI, this will not only significantly aid job creation but will also assist the government to move towards its vision.”

Government will take measures to stop cryptocurrency circulation, as it is not considered legal tender. Jaitley proposes use of blockchain technology to encourage digital payments and curb the use of cryptocurrencies, setting up of a national programme to encourage AI and providing easy internet access to villages.

Also Read:

Industry holds bright outlook for budget 2018

Union Budget 2018:  Populist budget fails to excite industry at large

Guest Column: M&E sector pins hopes on a developmental budget

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