Budget 2023: AI to National Data Governance Policy, FM Sitharaman drives digital agenda

FM Sitharaman presented the the Union Budget 2023 today, laying out various proposals to give a boost to the Indian economy.

| Updated on: Feb 01 2023, 20:33 IST
Budget 2023
FM Sitharaman just before presenting the Budget in the Lok Sabha. (PTI)
Budget 2023
FM Sitharaman just before presenting the Budget in the Lok Sabha. (PTI)

Union Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman presented the Union Budget 2023-24 today, laying out various proposals to give a boost to the Indian economy in the face of a massive slowdown that has hit the global economy. Underlying all the announcements were the digital initiatives which are expected to boost virtually all the proposals announced today in the Lok Sabha.

“The Union Budget 2023 listed multiple initiatives, such as the development of handicrafts, agriculture accelerator funds, push for public-private partnerships for sustainable crops/horticulture, and setting up of multipurpose dairy and fisheries. This will ensure inclusive development of the rural population, and in turn, will give a boost to the sector by enhancing consumption. For months, rural consumption was dampened and announcement initiatives will certainly give a nudge to reviving the sentiments," explained Naveen Malpani, Partner, Governance and Operations, Grant Thornton Bharat.

FM Sitharaman underlined the importance of her technology agenda that included the expansion of the digital infrastructure, including new centres of excellence for artificial intelligence, National Data Governance Policy, and Entity DigiLocker.

"Our vision for the Amrit Kaal includes technology-driven and knowledge-based economy with strong public finances, and a robust financial sector," Sitharaman said.

India already has a number of successes in the digital field that is powering the country's public infrastructure, including Aadhaar card, Co-Win, UPI and many more.

Looking ahead, FM Sitharaman highlighted the fact that the government was intent on stepping into the new-age areas of Artificial Intelligence and also take advantage of the opportunities opened up by India's entry into the 5G era.

With smartphones present in almost every Indian household now, the FM proposed to assist Indian companies in adding value in mobile phone manufacturing through customs duty relief on the import of certain parts and inputs like camera lenses.

"To further deepen domestic value addition in the manufacture of mobile phones, I propose to provide relief in customs duty on import of certain parts and inputs like camera lens and continue the concessional duty on lithium-ion cells for batteries for another year," the FM said.

Moving on from manufacturing, FM Sitharaman announced proposals to unleash innovation and research by start-ups and academia. FM said that this would happen through the National Data Governance Policy. The critical part is that this step will enable access to anonymised data- this will protect personal data and not violate it.

FM also proposed to establish three centres of excellence for Artificial Intelligence in top educational institutions for realising the vision of “Make AI in India and Make AI work for India".

"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. This will galvanise an effective AI ecosystem and nurture quality human resources in the field," the FM said.

She said digital public infrastructure for agriculture will be built as an open source, open standard and inter-operable public good.

"This will enable inclusive, farmer-centric solutions through relevant information services for crop planning and health, improved access to farm inputs, credit, and insurance, help for crop estimation, market intelligence, and support for growth of agri-tech industry and start-ups," Sitharaman noted.

With the Covid pandemic leaving a big gap in the education of students, FM Sitharaman announced the setting up of various digital touchpoints, including a National Digital Library for children and adolescents that would facilitate provision of quality books across geographies, languages, genres and levels.

With the KYC process proving to be such a robust system, FM Sitharaman said the process will be simplified by adopting a ‘risk-based' instead of ‘one size fits all' approach.

"Fintech services in India have been facilitated by our digital public infrastructure including Aadhaar, PM Jan Dhan Yojana, Video KYC, India Stack and UPI. To enable more Fintech innovative services, the scope of documents available in DigiLocker for individuals will be expanded," Sitharaman said.

In a big boost for MSMEs, large business and charitable trusts, FM Sitharaman proposed the setting up of an ‘Entity DigiLocker'. This will be towards storing and sharing documents online securely with banks and other business entities.

FM Sitharaman said that as many as 100 labs for developing applications using 5G services will be set up in engineering institutions to realise a new range of opportunities, business models, and employment potential.

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First Published Date: 01 Feb, 20:28 IST