Budget 2018: Govt to consider use of Blockchain; set up 5 lakh Wi-Fi hotspots in rural areas

Jaitley Budget

Announcing the Union Budget 2018, Finance Minister Arun Jaitley has said that the government will assign every enterprise in India a unique ID on the lines of Aadhaar; alongside the consideration for the use of Blockchain by the government. Jaitley also announced that INR 5.97 lakh crore will be allocated for infrastructure spending in India.

Some of the key announcements in the Budget 2018 include:

  • Five lakh Wi-Fi hotspots to be set up in rural areas to provide easy internet access
  • INR 148,528 crore is the capital expenditure for the Indian Railways for 2018-19; All trains to be progressively provided with Wi-Fi, CCTV and other amenities
  • Total 187 projects sanctioned under the Namami Gange programme
  • Technology will be the biggest driver in improving education
  • INR 14.34 lakh crore to be spent for providing livelihood to rural India through infrastructure building

Industry speak

“The Government has taken a very balanced approach in Union Budget 2018 with a special focus on strengthening the rural economy, infrastructure development and helping small and medium businesses. Government’s vision to move from black board to digital board schools by 2022, revitalization and upgrading of education sector through increased fund allocation and focus on education related research will create a brighter future for the young. We are enthused by the government’s focus on skills development and empowering students with the right educational tools. We are also thrilled with the Government’s emphasis on promoting research and use cases for digital manufacturing and 3D printing. We believe this technology will enable speedy growth of the manufacturing industry and help India in becoming a major manufacturing hub.”
Sumeer Chandra, Managing Director, HP Inc India

“Recognising the MSME sector as both a key employer and an important growth driver for the economy, the setting up of online loan sanctioning is a welcome move. From a technology perspective, a clear roadmap to build on new technologies like Artificial Intelligence, Blockchain, Internet of Things, digital manufacturing and quantum computing is a positive sign. The proposed national program to direct efforts in research, training and skilling around Artificial Intelligence by NITI Ayog is a clear sign of fuelling an innovation mind-set in the country. Blockchain is another significant area highlighted in the budget and the government is keen on using these technologies to propel a transparent and corrupt free economy. The government’s focus on further building Digital India by allocating INR 3,073 crore showcases the emphasis on building a global digital economy.”
Vishal Agrawal, Managing Director, India & SAARC, Avaya

“It is a progressive and good budget. The decision to train 50 lakh youth is wide spread acceptance of technology like Artificial Intelligence is the best way forward for the country.”
Manohar Bidaye, Chairman and Co-Founder, Zicom Electronic Security Systems              

“The last few years have seen large initiatives designed to bring about substantive change. The FY18 budget marks time, with its particular focus on agriculture, healthcare and infrastructure and the continued thrust on the MSME segment. The focus on wide scale broadband access, on Machine learning, AI and robotics, on R&D as well as skilling, and on Smart Cities will keep pushing India’s Digital agenda, well supported by the additional fund allocation. It is a quietly progressive budget, and timed well to focus on readying all cross sections of Indian society to reap the benefits of the future.”
Anil Valluri, President, NetApp India & SAARC

 “The 2018 budget brings us one step closer towards the realisation of Digital India with allocated budgets for R&D, training and skilling in AI, machine learning, Robotics, and Data sciences. We welcome the government’s focus on e-governance through Blockchain, digital manufacturing, IoT, quantum computing, big data and the monumental focus on digital transformation. The national program designed by Niti Aayog to boost R&D would ace India’s positioning as the centre of innovation. Broadband coverage for rural areas would certainly help reduce the digital divide. Such government initiatives would help democratize AI for citizens. Necessitating skilling of IT employees as they have been lately burdened with the pressure of feeling redundant, will go a long way in curbing job loss by creating and defining new roles for employees. Government’s proposal to invest INR 1 trillion to develop premium education infrastructure over the next four years is a welcome move towards ensuring quality education. Growth of fintech companies and recent policies of ease of doing business will boost entrepreneurship. India is at the cusp of digital transformation and establishment of centres of excellence will augment its positioning globally.”
Suman Reddy, MD Pegasystems India

“The Finance Minister in his budget speech has reiterated the stand by RBI that Cryptocurrency is not recognised as Legal tender in India. This is being misreported that Bitcoin is illegal. That is not true. We are on board and offer full support to the Government’s effort to eliminate use of crypto assets in illegitimate activities. This announcement does not affect our customers as we hold the highest standards for KYC and AML policies.”
Nischint Sanghavi, Head of Exchange, Zebpay

“Overall the budget has been encouraging for the technology sector, with a specific inclination towards greater localization and domestic consumption, and consequent indigenization. National Health Protection Scheme will entail significant technology investments, which could be catered to, very efficaciously, by the Indian technology sector already proficient in addressing this segment globally. The rich data base and scope for analytics emanating from a successful project of this nature can provide valuable insights for public policy. Focus on improvements in efficiencies and productivity across varied sectors like agriculture, health, education, infrastructure, etc are likely to spur development of indigenous and localized technology solutions. These solutions are likely to be mobile first, delivered through the cloud providing the startup community an interesting opportunity. Digital India likely to gain further momentum on the latest technology trends such as Artificial Intelligence, Block chain, Robotics, etc. with the specific outlay earmarked for setting up missions under the Department of Science and Technology. A successful absorption and indigenization to local needs can provide the platform for scale and granularity that could bring these technologies towards mainstream adoption faster.”
P N Sudarshan, Partner, Deloitte India

“The Government of India has made great strides towards digital enablement over the last few years. This year’s Union Budget further validates their strong focus on leveraging the best of technology to enhance socio-economic equity, capital and capacity within the country. Setting up of half a million Wi-Fi hotspots,  and push for digital payments are definitely positive signs. However, in the accelerated hyper connectedness which also includes critical infrastructure sectors like banking, energy and telecom coupled with government’s keen interest to explore technologies such as AI and blockchain, it is essential to ensure adequate investments are made towards cyber security and data protection. Recent large-scale, sophisticated attacks have underscored the importance of cyber security tremendously, and therefore government departments and agencies should consider allocating  at least 8% of their respective technology budgets for  strengthening their cyber defense.”
Gaurav Agarwal, Managing Director, India & SAARC, Symantec

“The move to make cryptocurrencies illegal is a major announcement; it is likely to create a negative impact on the price of these currencies, especially Bitcoin. A better idea may have been to come out with some sort of a regulatory framework around cryptocurrencies. On the other hand, the point raised by the Finance Minister about exploring the usage of blockchain technology for payments is a very good initiative. It will support homegrown technologies who have already invested in the technology and will attract new investments in this technology. It is a positive sign to see that five lakh wifi-hotspots will be set up covering five crore rural citizens. This falls in place with the country’s Digital vision. We would have liked to see more substantial movement on setting up the CERT-Fin for the financial sector.”
K K Mookhey, CEO & Founder, Network Intelligence

“The Government’s initiative to accelerate research in artificial intelligence (AI) reinforces our belief that AI would revolutionize the way financial institutions and customers interact with each other. This would add a new dimension to the digital transformation of our economy and expedite our march towards Digital India. With five lakh Wi-Fi hotspots proposed to provide data access to five crore people in rural areas, we can expect a surge in mobile Internet usage. This is a great step towards financial inclusion as more people from rural areas would now have access to digital products and services.”
S Sundararajan, Executive Director, i-exceed