One of the timeliest and smartest moves by Prime Minister Narendra Modi during his nine months in power was `digital India’ announcement to connect the 1.3 billion people with the government departments on a real-time basis. After the announcement, the Union Cabinet approved Rs one lakh crore to take it forward and complete by 2019, connecting the rural areas and bringing all under the same network umbrella.
In all likelihood, the forthcoming budget will have some specifics, in way of allocations and schemes to take this plan further. Though Cabinet approved the cost, now the budget has to specify from where the money will come for it. So, far, it has remained largely as an ambitious plan, though some administrative mechanism has been created. This budget will clearly specify the direction, growth, programmes, and will set the pace for the execution of the plan from the paper to the field. Just like all netizens and as an Indian wired to IT for decades, I am also immensely happy the prospects of Digital India.
However, as one of the prime drivers of our economy now, IT sector still has many wish-lists from the Finance Minister. They include support for R&D through grants or special incentives, special attention for IT infrastructure, motivation for new technologies, more concrete rules for IPR protection to safeguard innovations, level playing field for IT parks with other industrial parks etc. What industry desires will be a strong reform process in the IT sector akin to the manufacturing sector. Budget will be a clear platform to set pace for leveraging the potential of technology, especially in the backdrop of smart city and skill India initiatives.
But as an IT entrepreneur based outside India for long, I will ask for something more from the Minister. I will argue for an all-inclusive plan to implement the Digital India project. As someone who was lucky enough to be among the pioneers to sense the potential of cloud computing -- the latest revolution in IT--, I am looking forward to some incentives from the Finance Minister to innovations in the IT sector. For example, cloud is one of the innovations to be promoted and only government incentives can lure small and bright youngsters to take a plunge and further innovate.
Cloud is going to play a major role -- cost-effective and compact-- in the implementation of Digital India campaign which primarily aims to deliver the government services to all the citizens in the fastest and most transparent way. Digital India has three core components -- creation of digital infrastructure, delivering services digitally and digital literacy. Cloud is going to play the pivotal role in the e-governance or service delivery component, among the three. Many countries have already walked ahead of us by miles, while India is still wobbling through the initial phase.
Government is going to adopt a public-private-partnership model in the implementation of digital India, it was reported. But, my concern is whether it will be left only to the foreign and desi biggies or whether our large number SME firms will get a share.
Today, we live in an era of mobile and social technologies and they are powered by cloud. E-governance should also ultimately recognize this while laying the foundation for digital India. I just wish, if FM can stand up and offer scheme to promote innovations by the SMEs in this sector.
As in many countries, cloud is taking its due share also in India gradually. The cloud market has exploded in size, growing from a $77 billion market in 2010 to an estimated $210 billion in 2016 globally. According to Gartner, Inc. 2016 will be a defining year for cloud as private cloud begins to give way to hybrid cloud, and nearly half of large enterprises will have hybrid cloud deployments by the end of 2017.
It is a welcome step that Maharashtra is planning to use Microsoft's Azure public cloud to store citizen data under the digital-locker scheme. I hope, many more states will follow this and also take help from SMEs too for e-governance. I wish, FM will notice the significance of innovations needed for e-governance.
(Suresh Venkatachari is chairman of 8K Miles Software Services, which is a leading cloud solutions company. Based in the US, he is a pioneering expert in cloud solutions and successful serial entrepreneur in IT. He has around 25 years of experience in IT as consultant and entrepreneur.)
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