Home / Opinion / Online Views /  Digital India—still some way to go

First, a big shout-out to the finance minister for walking the fiscal and expectation tightrope extremely well in his budget speech.

While the overall tone and content was justifiably oriented towards the poorer sections of the country and generating jobs through a re-invigorated start-up system, the abolition of wealth tax, the postponement and prospective nature of general anti-avoidance rules (GAAR), the benefits given to foreign venture capital (VC) funds and technology OEMs (original equipment manufacturers) and the promise of a progressive reduction in corporate tax should have provided enough to keep the business and corporate folks in good humour.

The information technology (IT) industry itself, expected to be at the core of the ambitious Digital India eco-system, would find the budget a mixed bag.

The promise of easing out e-procurement by the government and the commencement of the self employment and talent utilization mechanism with an initial allocation for the start-up community are all good steps in the right direction.

However, the much awaited elimination or reduction of minimum alternate tax (MAT) on special economic zones (SEZs) has not happened, and the lack of any move to ease tax on angels and domestic VCs is a miss.

The ambitious Digital India initiative itself did not find any specific mention in the speech, apart from a commitment to the National Optical Fibre Network (NOFN) and its implementation in Andhra Pradesh and Telangana and, eventually, in the East and North-East.

One could say that the Janadhan Aadhar Mobile initiative and the electronic Trade Receivable Exchange and the e-business portal are all digital initiatives in the right direction, and the large outlays for education, healthcare and defence will create opportunities for further digitization.

And, of course, the stress on co-operative federalism and the Delhi-Mumbai Industrial Corridor (DMIC) successes will provide opportunities for expanding data centres across the country to support the large “Make in India" centres of excellence.

What more could have one wished for?

A substantial outlay to the National Broadband Mission to ensure that every corner of the country is connected, and a few thousand crores for the Digital Literacy Mission and also for IT-enabled skills creation through the IT and skill ministries.

Much of this can still happen if the Digital India plan is crafted in a collaborative manner with industry and every aspect—electronics manufacturing, smart cities, IT-enabled manufacturing, healthcare and education, to name a few—is articulated and implemented well. There is a lot this budget makes us happy about and statesmen such as Prime Minister Narendra Modi and finance minister Arun Jaitley can surely go the extra mile to make a Swachh Shakshar and Digital India a reality—soon.

Ganesh Natarajan is CEO of Zensar Technologies and chairman of the Nasscom Foundation.

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