From  tech  talk  to action; Union budget lays  out  digital  roadmap

NEW DELHI : From digital assets and payments, blockchain and artificial intelligence, to drones for farmers and agricultural services, this Union budget was heavily loaded with technology terms. However, it was not all talk about incentives as the government has done in the last two years. This year’s budget also focused on technology implementation.

Finance minister Nirmala Sitharaman announced the formation of a central bank digital currency (CBDC), a move that has been in the works for some time.

“Overall, the digitization theme is being carried forward and will be the backbone for new investments in education, healthcare, agriculture, banking, and payments, and also to streamline government procurement and payments,” noted P.N. Sudarshan, partner and TMT leader, Deloitte India.

Sitharaman also said the government will launch a public private partnership (PPP) scheme for “delivery of digital and hi-tech services” to farmers. “Use of ‘Kisan Drones’ will be promoted for crop assessment, digitization of land records, spraying insecticides, and nutrients,” she said. In addition, states will be “encouraged to revise syllabi of agricultural universities” to facilitate organic farming and modern-day agriculture.

The minister also announced the creation of a fund that will be facilitated through the National Bank for Agriculture and Rural Development (Nabard) to finance startups and “rural enterprise” relevant to the farm produce value chain.

The government announced the issuance of electronic passports, or e-passports, which will use embedded chips and “futuristic technology”. These are set to roll out in 2022-23 and should facilitate contactless immigration.

The focus on implementing technology was not limited to business use cases alone. The finance minister also announced a unified logistics interface platform (ULIP), which will be driven by an application programming interface (API) to facilitate the “efficient movement of goods through different modes, logistics cost and time”.

Reskilling was another focus area. The Digital Ecosystem for Skilling and Livelihood e-portal will help upskill youths “as per industry needs” and help fill talent and skill gaps in the industry, according to Nitin Bansal, managing director, India, at telecom firm Ericsson.

Sitharaman also said infrastructure status will be granted to the data centre industry, which acts as the backbone of most digital services.

With inputs from Moumita Deb Choudhury and Vignesh Anantharaj

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