The Union 2018 Budget delivered by Finance Minister Arun Jaitley, made a visible push towards farmer welfare and betterment of the rural population. Besides this, the budget also saw the government introducing the National Health Protection Scheme (NHPS), which is being dubbed as the world’s largest government funded health protection scheme.
Even though the tilt of budget seemed to be towards the grassroots, future tech like Artificial Intelligence and Blockchain did find mention in Jaitey’s speech, with respect to the digital economy.
Jaitley acknowledged that the global economy was being transformed into a digital technology due to the development of cutting edge technology like Artificial Intelligence, machine learning, internet of things (IOT) to name a few. After asserting that his government was establishing India as a digital society via schemes like Digital India, start-up India, Jaitley claimed that NITI Aayog would initiate a national program for directing the government’s efforts into Artificial Intelligence. This includes research and development of AI based applications.
Apart from this, other announcements in this area include:
- Doubling the allocation for Digital India to Rs 3073 in 2018-19.
- Launching mission on Cyber Physical Systems to invest in research, skill development in robotics, artificial intelligence, digital manufacturing, big data analysis, quantum communication and internet of things.
- Setting up of an indigenous 5G Test Bed at IIT Chennai for harnessing the benefits of the 5th Generation technologies.
- Exploring the use of Blockchain technology and its implementation in the digital economy.
Even though the above steps are commendable, Arun Jaitley did dampen the spirits of tech enthusiasts by outright proclaiming that his government does not consider crypto-currencies as legal tender and would do whatever it can to eliminate the use of crypto-assets as part of the payment system or in financing “illegitimate activities”.
Government’s assertion that it wishes to eliminate cryptocurrency from the payment system, might signal that the future is bleak for the development of this alternate but fast picking medium of exchange in India. It also remains to be seen how the government proceeds to define “illegitimate activities” to crack down on cryptocurrencies and what it proceeds to do with the cryptocurrency which is already being held by Indian citizens.