Budget 2014: 'Integrating technology with governance to improve accountability'

Budget 2014: 'Integrating technology with governance to improve accountability'

The NDA government, in the 2014 Budget, aims to integrate the services of all Central government departments and ministries with the e-biz platform for business and investment related clearances.

Ujjwal Datla is a student at the Indian School of Business Ujjwal Datla is a student at the Indian School of Business

Finance Minister Arun Jaitely has presented the first general budget of the NDA government. The focus seems to be on reviving investor confidence in the country. Much like in Narendra Modi's election campaign, in the budget too technology has played an important role. There was an element of technology in a few proposals, which I thought was both, interesting and exciting.

I believe that the best way for technology to contribute in a bureaucratic system like ours is by improving accountability and assigning ownership. The minister said that by the end of the year all Central government departments and ministries would integrate their services with the e-biz platform, which will act as the platform for business and investment related clearances.  This seems to be in line with the Prime Minister's "Minimum Government, Maximum Governance" mantra.

During his campaign, Modi coined an interesting expression, IT+IT=IT (Information Technology + Indian Talent = India Tomorrow). In that spirit, the ideas of "Digital India" and the "National Rural Internet Technology Mission" are quite significant.

According to a UN report last year, India ranks 122 in fixed broadband penetration with only 1.1 per every 100 inhabitants having access to it. With 12.6 per cent of the population accessing Internet in the country, India ranked 145 among countries in terms of percentage of individuals using the internet.

Even among developing countries, India ranked 98 on the same metric.

The proposed "Digital India" initiative aims to ensure broadband connectivity at the village level and improve access to services through IT-related platforms, thus enabling greater transparency and accountability. This proposal might also stimulate indigenous production of IT hardware and software for exports, while increasing domestic availability.

The second cog in the wheel is actually developing skills in the local community to use the Internet. To meet this end, a National Rural Internet and Technology Mission for services in villages and schools, training in IT skills and E-Kranti for government service delivery and governance schemeS is also proposed.

The Finance Minister has also taken advantage of the vast reach of technology by proposing to set up virtual classrooms as Communication Linked Interface for Cultivating Knowledge (CCLK) and introducing online courses. While nothing can compensate for a physical classroom, a virtual class is the next best thing.

The FDI cap in defence has been raised to 49 per cent. Currently the world's largest importer of arms, India needs the FDI push to help it kick start high quality indigenous weapons production. While no additional information was given with regard to technology transfer, raising the cap is an important first step in making India self-sustainable when it comes to defence equipment.

India lags in research. While we have some of the finest institutions, the number of papers of international quality presented is very low. When seen against this backdrop, the government's proposal to strengthen at least five institutions under the Department of Science and Technology as Technical Research Centres is a welcome move.

India has fallen way behind China and Taiwan in incentivising semi-conductor production. This, in spite of having a strong pool of talented VLSI design engineers, a big domestic market and stable governments.

The investment linked tax deductions are now also applicable to the investments made in semi-conductor wafer fabrication manufacturing units. This should help boost investment in the fab units.

Earlier this year, the previous government had approved projects by two consortia at the Yamuna Expressway and in Prantij, Gujarat. The tax benefits should further add to the investors' reassurance.

While the stock markets haven't exactly reacted buoyantly to the first budget of this Lok Sabha and details on a few issues (such as technology transfer clause, the timeline for the GST, etc.) were missing, overall it seemed to suggest a good vision document that the government laid out for the next few years. Whether the acche din do come or not depends largely on the execution of this vision.

(The author is a student of the Indian School of Business, PGP class of 2015)

Published on: Jul 18, 2014, 7:00 PM IST
Posted by: Trupti Agarwal, Jul 18, 2014, 7:00 PM IST