Union Budget for the financial year 2018-19 was presented by Finance Minister Arun Jaitley in Parliament on February 1, 2018. As usual, the budget has its prime focus on boosting agriculture and rural economy, but our topic of interest will be the digital sector. So here are some of the excerpts from the budget speech dealing with digital India and all.
Technology for Education
The budget asserted that the quality of education can be improved with the help of technology. Hence, it proposed to increase the digital intensity in education. This will help the gradual movement of education from ‘blackboard’ to digital board’. Teachers across the country will be able to upgrade their skills through the recently launched digital portal ‘DIKSHA‘.
Digital India Programme
The speech quoted that the global economy is remodelling into a digital economy. Cutting-edge technologies like machine learning, artificial intelligence, internet of things, 3D printing etc favoured this transformation. In India initiatives like Digital India, Start-Up India, Make in India have helped us to establish among other digital societies around the globe. NITI Aayog will be initiating a national program to put more efforts on artificial intelligence, including research and development of its applications.
The potential of combining cyber and physical system will help to transform India economy and the way of life. A new mission on Cyber-Physical Systems will be launched by Department of Science & Technology in order to support the establishment of centers of excellence. For all this and Digital India Programme, the budget allocation is doubled to Rs 3073 crore for 2018-19.
Telecommunication and 5G
Bharatnet project has helped to connect one lakh gram panchayats to digital world via a high-speed optical fiber network. Now over 20 crores rural population in about fifty thousand villages can access broadband. Moreover, there is also a proposal for five lakh wi-fi hotspots for broadband access to five crore rural citizens. A budget of Rs 10000 crore has been set aside for the creation and augmentation of Telecom infrastructure during 2018-19. The DoT will help in establishing indigenous ‘Fifth Generation’ 5G Testbeds at IIT Chennai for harnessing its benefits.
Cryptocurrency in Digital Economy
The government of India has also shown interest in the distributed ledger system or the blockchain technology. Cryptocurrency will not be considered as a legal tender and will be eliminated from all financial activities and payment system. However, contrastingly they will be exploring the use of blockchain technology in a controlled way for assisting the digital economy.
Digital Toll System – Fastags
A lot of digital changes has been introduced in toll system in order to make road travel seamless. Now, most toll plazas are accepting Fastags and other electronic payment systems instead of cash. Compared to 60,000 Fastags in December 2016, there are now over 10 lakh Fastags countrywide. Moreover, Fastags became mandatory for all category of ‘M’ & ‘N’ vehicles sold after December 2017. The government will also implement a policy to introduce a toll system on ‘pay as you use’ basis.
Customs Duty on Imported Electronics
In order to promote domestic value addition, this budget has the proposal to increase customs duty on certain imports. This will encourage programmes like Make in India and increase job opportunities in the country. So he announced a hike in customs duty of mobile phones to 20%. Mobile accessories, components and certain TV parts will now be charged at 15%.
Smart City Mission & AMRUT
Digital India mission is building smart cities across the country. The Government already has two interlinked programmes active for this – the Smart Cities Mission and the AMRUT. The Smart Cities Mission aims at forging 100 Smart Cities with state-of-the-art amenities. For this, they have selected 99 Cities with an outlay of Rs 2.04 lakh crore. Various projects like Smart Command and Control Centre, Smart Roads, Solar Rooftops, Intelligent Transport Systems, Smart Parks worth Rs 2350 crore are being implemented in these cities.
Railway Digital Infrastructure
The Indian Railways as always got a major attention in improving the security and maintenance. Redevelopment of 600 major railway station is being taken up by Indian Railway Station Development Co. Ltd. Stations with more than 25000 footfalls will be equipped with escalators. All the railway stations and trains will soon be provided with wi-fi and CCTVs. Integrated Coach factory at Perambur has designed some modern train sets with state-of-the-art amenities and other features. The production of first such train-set will be authorized during 2018-19