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Robust Digital Infra Among Top Priorities of Budget'23 In order to further strengthen the Indian digital economy, FM Nirmala Sitharaman has announced a number of measures that will impact several arenas such as agriculture, finance, commerce, education, culture, justice and more

By Soumya Duggal

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Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman

Among green mobility, women empowerment and agricultural development, an unmistakable theme of finance minister Nirmala Sitharaman's speech while presenting the Union Budget 2023 was the advancement of the country's digital infrastructure.

India's rising global profile rests on many accomplishments, one of the primary ones being its premier digital public infrastructure that offers services such as Aadhaar, CoWin and UPI, among others, she noted in the Lok Sabha.

In order to further strengthen the Indian digital economy, the minister has announced a number of measures which will impact several sectors such as agriculture, finance, commerce, education, culture, justice and more.

Agriculture

To begin with, an open-source digital public infrastructure will be set up for agriculture, enabling inclusive, farmer-centric solutions for crop planning, farm inputs, credit, insurance, crop estimation and market intelligence. Additionally, support will be extended for the growth of the agritech industry and startups.

Education & Upskilling

From young children and adolescents to the country's youth and working professionals, the Budget 2023 addresses various stakeholders among India's academic community.

The government plans to set up a National Digital Library for young readers to provide them with quality books across geographies, languages, genres and levels, whose accessibility will be device-agnostic. "States will be encouraged to set up physical libraries for them at panchayat and ward levels and provide infrastructure for accessing the National Digital Library resources," stated Sitharaman.

Further, in order to realise the vision of 'Make AI in India and Make AI work for India', three centres of excellence for Artificial Intelligence will be established in top educational institutions. "Leading industry players will partner in conducting interdisciplinary research, develop cutting-edge applications and scalable problem solutions in the areas of agriculture, health, and sustainable cities," she added.

In order to empower Indian youth in expanding their skill sets, centre will undertake various measures: 100 labs for developing applications for smart classrooms, precision farming, intelligent transport systems and healthcare using 5G services will be set up in engineering institutions; the basic customs duty will be reduced and a five-year research and development grant given to one of the IITs to encourage the indigenous production of Lab Grown Diamonds (LGD) seeds and machines and to reduce import dependency. LPGs, part of a technology- and innovation-driven emerging sector with high employment potential, are environment-friendly diamonds which have optically and chemically the same properties as natural diamonds, explained the minister.

Finally, under the Pradhan Mantri Kaushal Vikas Yojana 4.0, new-age courses will be offered in coding, AI, robotics, mechatronics, IOT, 3D printing, drones, and soft skills. "To skill youth for international opportunities, 30 Skill India International Centres will be set up across different states," further announced Sitharaman, adding that a unified Skill India Digital platform will also be launched to develop the digital ecosystem for skilling.

Culture & Justice

The Union Budget 2023 has also made provisions for establishing a 'Bharat Shared Repository of Inscriptions' in a digital epigraphy museum, with the digitization of one lakh ancient inscriptions in the first stage.

"For the efficient administration of justice, Phase-3 of the E-Courts project will be launched with an outlay of INR 7,000 crore," announced Sitharaman. The e-Courts Mission Mode Project was conceptualised by the e-Committee of the Supreme Court (SC) on the basis of the National Policy and Action Plan to implement information and communication technology (ICT) in India's judiciary. Its objectives include automating the court processes to make the justice delivery system affordable, accessible and transparent to citizens.

Fintech services and ease of business

"The KYC process will be simplified adopting a 'risk-based' instead of 'one size fits all' approach. The financial sector regulators will also be encouraged to have a KYC system fully amenable to meet the needs of Digital India," noted the finance minister in the budget session.

As per her address, a one-stop solution for the reconciliation and updating of identity and address of individuals maintained by various government and regulatory agencies will be established using the DigiLocker service and Aadhaar as the foundational identity. Further, for business establishments required to have a Permanent Account Number (PAN), the PAN will be used as the common identifier for all digital systems of specified government agencies, aiming to bring the ease of doing business. Moreover, a system of 'Unified Filing Process' will also be set up to prevent the need for separately submitting the same information to different government agencies. "Such filing of information or return in simplified forms on a common portal will be shared with other agencies as per filer's choice," clarified the minister.

In an effort to boost the country's existing fintech services, which have been facilitated by digital infrastructure including Aadhaar, PM Jan Dhan Yojana, Video KYC, India Stack and UPI, not only will the scope of documents available in DigiLocker for individuals be expanded but an Entity DigiLocker will be set up for use by MSMEs, large business and charitable trusts. "This will be towards storing and sharing documents online securely, whenever needed, with various authorities, regulators, banks and other business entities," added Sitharaman.

To enhance business activities in GIFT IFSC, the government will put in place a single-window IT system for the registration and approval from IFSCA, SEZ authorities, GSTN, RBI, SEBI and IRDAI. For countries looking for digital continuity solutions, centre will facilitate the setting up of their Data Embassies in GIFT IFSC, said the minister. She also assured the country that fiscal support for digital payments will continue in FY23.
Soumya Duggal

Former Feature Writer

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