It looks like the Modi brigade is determined to catch every bit of the digital flavour. From launching Twitter and Facebook handles for Indian Railways on the eve of the rail budget, to announcing a series of digital-centric proposals, the government at the centre does not wish to leave any stone unturned when it comes to bridging the digital divide in across the nation.
Finance Minister, Arun Jaitley, in the Union Budget, announced the launch of a pan-India programme called “Digital India”. The aim of the programme is to further bridge the divide between digital “haves” and “have-nots”. The government claims to be charting a roadmap for a truly digital nation.
As he presented his maiden budget for the year 2014-15, Jaitley proposed to set aside Rs 500 crore for the propagation of broadband, information technology (IT) hardware manufacturing and software development, with a special focus on software start-ups. Jaitley also announced Rs. 100 crore for digital classrooms, especially in rural areas. He said e-visas will be available at nine airports, with the infrastructure to be put in place within the next six months to facilitate visas-on-arrival.
Jaitley said that the government has proposed to set-up 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 scheme with an initial corpus of Rs. 500 crore. A programme for promoting “Good Governance” will also be launched and a sum of Rs 100 crore will be set aside for this, the Minister added.
“The programme would provide broadband connectivity at village level, improve access to services through IT-enabled platforms,” said Jaitley.
From building electronic platforms to integrating government departments, digital classrooms, introduction of e-visas, to encouraging manufacturing of electronic goods, and increasing broadband penetration, the Modi-fied budget proposals are full of steps aimed at giving India the much-needed digital push.
“The budget has positively set aside close to Rs 500 crore for the Digital India programme to ensure connectivity at the grass-root levels. Brands and organisations on digital will now also focus on the rural markets, if they haven't already done so, through the online mediums. Going forward, there will be a paradigm shift in the communication and marketing strategies by digital and technology agencies to specifically target this new audience by including unique and innovative rural marketing campaigns,” said Suveer Bajaj, Co-founder of digital marketing agency, FoxyMoron.
R S Agarwal, Joint Chairman, Emami Group of Companies said, “The maiden budget presented by the BJP led NDA Government is in overall a very good budget… is developmental in nature and sets the tone for strengthening the country’s economic foundation.”
FM also announced that manufacturing units will be allowed to sell their products through retail including e-commerce platforms without any additional approval. This could simplify brands getting a presence on online sites like Amazon, Snapdeal, or Flipkart.
Vaanee Bhatia, founder of e-commerce portal Gritstones.com said, “As everything is getting digitalised, broadband connectivity at district village level is the need of the hour. We take this as a huge opportunity for e-commerce business. I won’t be surprised within some days if courier companies roll out their new list of covering pin codes.
Also, she pointed out businesses don’t really use the present technology to the maximum. “Rs 100 crore being set aside for the Technology Development Fund makes sense only if the budget set aside is used in a proper way. We could derive much more from what we have already,” she said.