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  India   All India  02 Feb 2018  Budget 2018: What is in it for Information Technology?

Budget 2018: What is in it for Information Technology?

FINANCIAL CHRONICLE | MINI TEJASWI
Published : Feb 2, 2018, 6:02 am IST
Updated : Feb 2, 2018, 7:20 am IST

Data management and block chain for public services is India’s need and opportunity.

Arun Jaitley, Finance Minister of Narendra Modi-led NDA government presented the Union budget 2018-19 on Thursday. (Photo: PTI)
 Arun Jaitley, Finance Minister of Narendra Modi-led NDA government presented the Union budget 2018-19 on Thursday. (Photo: PTI)

First impression — not negative. Hence, positive. Verdict — opportunity knocking loudly.

The annual ceremony of holding your breath while the FM speaks just ended. Expected to be a ballot budget, the keywords were agriculture, healthcare and education. 2022 got more mentions than 2018.

As I write, all channels are hosting budget hackers trying to balance government books while looking for the additional money to fund the world’s largest health insurance scheme that FM Jaitely just announced.

Separately, the Indian IT industry is heaving a collective sigh of relief. No bad news is good news. The D word is coming up again — Domestic business. Even if the patriotic bone is habituated to sleep 9 to 5 on weekdays, it is time to kick it awake.

Across the world, no FM in recent times has felt the need to use words like AI, block chain and robotics in their budget speech. FM Jaitely did and so eloquently. That is a score for the Indian IT industry and an unscripted invitation to work with the government to fashion the thinking on its application across public services.

Aadhaar was a pipe dream when launched. It took professional leadership, technical prowess and timely allocations before it became a household word across India. Digital history is yet to see another zero to billion user growth in just 6 years. Universal healthcare mission is the next big pipe dream.

Seen as a precursor to universal health coverage, the plan is to provide generous health insurance cover to 50 crore Indians. Billed as the world’s largest government-funded healthcare program ever, its success is unthinkable without the use of technology and an army of new healthcare workers and matching infrastructure. Similarly, the dream to move from ‘blackboards to digital boards’, is yet another big idea in the budget speech.

These are big opportunities for technology providers. But before it shows up in top and bottom lines, much work has to be done. It will be an experience of a lifetime. Any member of the Aadhaar team will vouch for that.

Countries pop up when you think of technology trends. US and e-commerce, Israel and security, Japan and robotics, China and AI.

Data management and block chain for public services is India’s need and opportunity. The intent was loudly signaled today.

The digital natives across India are increasingly and creatively getting around access to information. The creation of 500, 000 wifi hotpsots across the villages of India as envisioned in the Budget, will accelerate the adoption of financial technology. Kicked open by the demonetisation move, digital literacy has exploded across India.

Having thrown the common man at the digital deep end, we find them swimming expertly. Without losing momentum, the Fintech innovations in India have many more mountains to climb. And they will be handsomely rewarded, as we have seen.

I just read a note from 4 years ago titled Budget impact on the IT sector. Cathartic. Filled with Indirect and Direct tax exemptions, SEZ, Tech parks and transfer pricing issues - exports ruled the roost.

Cut to today. Exports continue to rule and there are many growth kinks that remain to be ironed out. However, it is surely a sign of maturity of the IT industry when the budget conversations today are more futuristic, exciting and tackle Bharat’s most challenging problems. Welcome to possible.

Akila Krishnakumar
Founding partner of Social Venture Partners (India)

By arrangement with Financial Chronicle

Tags: union budget 2018-19, it industry