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Bridging Digital Divide, The Finest Deliverable Of The Budget

India ranks low on digital literacy levels on a global scale with around 12 crore rural households not having access to computers

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There is no denying the fact that India stands on the cusp of a digital revolution. With a huge internet community of 40 million internet users cementing an online footprint, geographical barriers are fast dissolving and emergence of new-age platforms like WhatsApp has revolutionized modern communication protocols. The so-called ‘digital divide’ in the current context is about to become extinct.

I personally believe that the greatest takeaway from the budget is the committed resolve of the Government to bridge the digital divide, if it is still there. Though largely touted as a budget to propel the rural economy on a higher trajectory and ensure farmer’s welfare, the driving force behind its formulation was technology.

India presently ranks low on digital literacy levels on a global scale with around 12 crore rural households not having access to computers. Committed to making digital literacy a national mission, the government has announced the National Digital Literacy Mission and Digital Saksharta Abhiyan (DISHA). The roll-out of the first scheme under this endeavor will train 6 crore additional rural households in the first three years. A transparent mechanism for disbursing key amenities has been mulled by the government by moving a bill for Targeted Delivery of Financial and Other Subsidies, Benefits and Services by linking it with the Aadhar framework.

The announcement by the government to create ‘E-Pashudhan Haat’, an e-market place for connecting breeders and farmers has been hailed as a unique technological initiative. The budgetary provision for an online procurement system ensures that the technological capabilities of farmers are suitably enhanced. In order to make domestic information technology increasingly accessible and affordable to the common man, Finance Minister Arun Jaitley stated that existing excise and customs duty rates would be rationalized. Archaic tax structures and complexities in paying taxes would soon be a thing of the past with the proposed expansion of the e-Sahyog initiative. This unique feature is designed to simplify taxation norms and implement data tracking measures to keep tabs on tax evaders. Digitization of land records and leveraging competitive potencies of stock exchanges through technological inputs is planned to be undertaken by the government on a priority basis.

A report issued in November by market research firm Internet and Mobile Association of India (IAMAI) has stated that the number of internet users in the country would surge to 462 million by June 2016. With 40% of the internet users based in rural areas and 70 per cent of internet geeks logging on to the digital space through mobile devices, it becomes imperative for the government to conceptualize ways and means to scale digital barriers and simplify accessibility measures.

One of the most progressive efforts in recent times, the budget lays credence to the fact that India can achieve superior levels of economic growth through technology initiatives and implementation of digital literacy programs. The budget also holds the promise to create a new breed of rural and urban entrepreneurs through technological expertise at their disposal, envisioning the finer principles of the Start-Up India program.

Last but not the least, the budget has instilled hope and the power to dream big in the minds of youngsters, harboring the capacity and the willingness to bring about a technological renaissance in the country. The budget has largely succeeded in achieving the twin goals of social and technological inclusion by assimilating farmers also in the digital mainstream.

Disclaimer: The views expressed in the article above are those of the authors' and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of this publishing house. Unless otherwise noted, the author is writing in his/her personal capacity. They are not intended and should not be thought to represent official ideas, attitudes, or policies of any agency or institution.

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digital india Budget 2016-17 rural economy india

Suresh Venkatachari

The author is chairman of 8K Miles Software Services, which is a leading cloud solutions company. Based in the US, he is an expert in cloud solutions and successful serial entrepreneur in IT

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