Finance Minister Arun Jaitley sanctioned Rs. 3,037 crore for the government's ambitious 'Digital India' programme during the Union Budget 2018 announcements. The budget also promised broadband connectivity to 2.5 lakh Gram Panchayats under the Bharat Net project and indicated its intention to explore Blockchain technology usage.
With the government's evident focus on accelerating the pace of digitisation process in the country, the FM allocated Rs. 10,000 crore to the telecom industry for early adoption of 5G. He also said that NITI Aayog will take a major step to employ Artificial Intelligence (AI) for national development.
"By the end of this year, we should go up to 5 lakh Wi-Fi hotspots from 38,000, thereby ensuring that every single village in India will at least have one Wi-Fi hotspot," said Arun Jaitley.
Exchange4Media reached out to industry experts to understand what they think in what appears to be a reformist budget for start-ups and digital India.
Vivek Bhargava, CEO, DAN Performance Group, was impressed with the government's decision to explore Blockchain technology. He said, "FM Jaitley's budget this year focuses on investments to be placed in artificial intelligence, machine learning and the Internet of Things (IoT) with the NITI Aayog establishing a national program to direct efforts in artificial intelligence. Decisions benefiting rural citizens, such as 5 lakh WiFi spots, give it a further impetus. Another game changer mentioned in this budget was the government's will to proactively explore the use of Blockchain technology."
"The government's impetus on digitising the rural hinterlands, focus on smart cities and commitment to Blockchain technology, will encourage the promotion of digital payments across the country, thereby making India truly digital. Further, disallowing cash payments beyond Rs. 10,000 by trusts and institutions will boost digital payments. However, the government should consider regulating cryptocurrencies than curbing their use entirely," said, Bipin Preet Singh, Co-founder, MobiKwik. Similarly, Vinay Singhal, Co-Founder & CEO, WittyFeed, was of the opinion that discouraging cryptocurrency will hamper India's position in the global market.
Rahul Vengalil, Founder and CEO, What Clicks, thinks that the technology could also be used efficiently for digital advertising. "I am hopeful that digital will soon become a way of life for majority of Indians and not just an entertainment medium which it is today. What would be really interesting though, would be the usage of Blockchain technology in advertising in the coming days. It would give the much-needed transparency to the ecosystem, providing a cleaner supply side and more operational efficiency, leading to improved quality," he said.
Shrenik Gandhi, Co-founder White Rivers Media was of the opinion that derecognizing the cryptocurrency market shall have a negative global impact, yet is a strong statement coming from world's largest democracy.
The latest budget announcements on the 'Digital India' initiative focus on their plan to create a robust infrastructure and facilitate extensive rural penetration which will lead to a sizeable boost in the digital consumption economy in the country. "We expect entertainment to be big driver in this consumption journey," said Siddhartha Roy, CEO, Hungama.com.
Amit Sinha, COO, Paytm Mall was happy that small businesses, farmers and rural economy were at the core of this budget. "Simplifying and increasing access to credit under MUDRA Yojana for small businesses is a welcome step. Increased allocation to Digital India initiative, infrastructure, optical fibre network in rural areas and WiFi spots will bring millions of new users to the digital economy and e-commerce. Paytm Mall has been working with shopkeepers to grow their business through its O2O commerce model and I look at this budget as an opportunity to increase the scale of our partnerships," he said.
"These initiatives would help push video consumption across OTT platforms. Acceleration of digital payments and mobile wallets will also drive usage of SVOD and TVOD models," said, Rajiv Vaidya, CEO, Spuul India.
Manav Sethi, CMO, ALTBalaji said that it was a welcome step from the government, if executed well. "Today, well connected Tier II and III towns and villages are need of the hour; not just by roads but through internet as well. Internet connectivity enables the common man with power of choosing their options. We are looking forward to a well-connected India," he said.
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