One Lakh villages to go Digital over next five years : Union Budget

• Jan Dhan-Aadhaar-Mobile (JAM) and Direct Benefit Transfer (DBT) – game changers since bank Nationalisation half century ago

• 34 Crore new bank accounts in last five years under Jan Dhan; Aadhaar reach near Universal

• Single window clearance for film shoot, available to foreigners, to be extended to Indian filmmakers

• Cinematograph act to be amended to check piracy

New Delhi, February 2, 2019 : India having emerged as the world leader in the consumption of mobile data, the Government now aims to widen its impact by reaching out to the interior and rural areas. While presenting the Interim Budget 2019-20 in Parliament, the Union Minister for Finance, Corporate Affairs, Railways & Coal, Piyush Goyal said the Government will make one lakh villages into Digital Villages over next five years. This, he said, will be achieved by expanding the Common Service Centres (CSCs).

“The Common Service Centres are expanding their services and also creating digital infrastructure in the villages, including connectivity, to convert the villages into Digital Villages,” said  Piyush Goyal. “More than 3 lakh Common Service Centres (CSCs) employing about 12 lakh people, are digitally delivering several services to the citizens,” he added.

The Finance Minister said mobile tariff in India is now possibly the lowest in the world, catapulting India as the world leader in the consumption of mobile data. “Monthly consumption of mobile data increased by over 50 times in the last five years. The cost of data and voice calls in India is now possibly the lowest in the world.”

Piyush Goyal said the ‘Make in India’ programme has seen India emerging as the new destination for mobile phone manufacturing industry. “Today, under Make in India, mobile and parts manufacturing companies have increased from 2 to more than 268 providing huge job opportunities,” he added.

JAM-DBT, the next big game changer since Bank Nationalisation

The Finance Minister termed the Jan Dhan-Aadhaar-Mobile (JAM) and Direct Benefit Transfer (DBT) as game changers.

“Bank nationalisation was first done 50 years ago, but a large part of the country was still left out of the economic mainstream with no access to formal banking. In the last five years, nearly 34 crore Jan Dhan bank accounts were opened,” said  Piyush Goyal. The Finance Minister said Aadhaar has ensured better targeted subsidies.

“Aadhaar is now near universally implemented. This has helped ensure the poor and middle class receive the benefits of Government schemes directly in their bank accounts by eliminating middlemen,” he said.

The Finance Minister announced that a National Artificial Intelligence Portal will also be developed soon as a part of the National Programme on ‘Artificial Intelligence’.

Single window clearance for film shoot extended to Indian filmmakers

Recognising India’s Entertainment Industry as a major job sector, the Finance Minister declared extension of single window clearance for film shoot to Indian filmmakers. “Single window clearance for ease of shooting films, available only to foreigners, is now going to be made available to Indian filmmakers as well,” said Piyush Goyal.

The Finance Minister also announced other measures to ease filmmaking and check piracy. “Regulatory provisions will rely more on self-declaration. We will also introduce anti-camcording provisions in the Cinematograph Act to control the menace of piracy,” he said.

Post-Budget Review by Suman Reddy Eadunuri, MD, Pegasystems India

“The government has given fair impetus to the technology sector, and indicates its commitment to use technology as a platform to build a Digital India that reaches every citizen, by transforming 1 lakh villages into Digital Villages. Focusing on AI in two consecutive budgets, the announcement of a National Centre for AI (Artificial Intelligence) supported by Centres of Excellence in 9 priority areas conveys how important this key technology is for the government, as the country aims to become a $5 trillion economy in the next 5 years. This furthers the announcements in AI investments and institutions made in 2018 which expands the scope of research and collaboration, said Suman Reddy Eadunuri, MD, Pegasystems India.

He said, However, the industry is looking to understand how these institutions are creating a favourable environment to foster entrepreneurship or AI research, and how the investment is creating on-ground impact, helping enterprises and deep-tech startups to create market value. The national AI portal is a good move to facilitate the vision of Minimum Government, Maximum Governance as part of Vision 2030, being a catalyst for emerging technologies, and a platform to unite the efforts of a massive institution like the central government. 

Suman Reddy further added that,  “The emphasis on increasing tax-paying base, and reducing tax burden on middle class, in addition to GST show the government’s overall commitment to plug leakages and improve tax collection processes. The reform of the tax environment shows rapid strides towards efficiency and transparency. Given the interim nature of this budget, expectations around corporate tax, Place of Effective Management and skilling involvement in the IT sector have been missed.  We are hoping the full-fledged Budget in July will address key expectations and boost the output of the industry.”

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