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In an otherwise agriculture- and public health-focused Union Budget 2018-19, artificial intelligence (AI), machine learning (ML), blockchain technology, internet of things -- jargons that till date have found little or no mention in the previous budgets -- managed to make their presence felt this year, reinforcing the government’s strong resolution to push everything digital.
From classrooms to highways, Finance Minister Arun Jaitley in his budget speech, charted out an elaborate plan to bring in AI and ML in every aspect of next level of country’s development.
“Global economy is transforming into a digital economy thanks to development of cutting edge technologies in digital space, machine learning, artificial intelligence, internet of things, 3D printing and the like. Initiatives such as Digital India, StartUp India, Make in India would help India establish itself as a knowledge anddigital society. NITI Aayog will initiate a national program to direct our efforts in the area of artificial intelligence, including research and development of its applications,” Jaitley said in his speech.
The FM further added that the combining cyber and physical systems have great potential to transform not only innovation ecosystem but also the economy. The government this year plans to ramp up investments in research, training and skilling in robotics, AI, digital manufacturing, big data analysis, quantum communication and IoT. The Department of Science & Technology will also launch a Mission on Cyber Physical Systems to support establishment of centres of excellence.
Industry experts however said that most of the push on AI and ML would depend on the participation of the private sector. “It is encouraging to note the focus on new generation technologies like robotics, artificial intelligence and analytics. As far as skill building initiatives go. It remains to be seen how partners from the private sector eco-system with knowledge & expertise in these areas get involved in this initiative,” Arindam Guha, partner Deloitte India.
From blackboards to digital boards
Making education digital is also one of the primary agendas of the government this year around. In an effort to incorporate technology at every level, the government plans to replace blackboards with digital boards in government schools.
“Technology will be the biggest driver in improving the quality of education. We propose to increase the digital intensity in education and move gradually from ‘‘blackboard’’ to ‘‘digitalboard’’. Technology will also be used to upgrade the skills of teachers through the recently launched digital portal ‘DIKSHA’,” Jaitley added.
Big push to e-tolling and digital payments
Continuing with its push to digitising payments across sectors, the FM today said that e-tolling on highways would be given utmost importance. The government is charting out ways to maximise digital payments on highways and would be adding more toll plazas into this initiative.
“The system of toll payments physically by cash at road toll plazas is being fast replaced with Fastags and other electronic payment systems to make road travel seamless. Number of Fastags has gone up from about 60,000 in December 2016 to more than 10 lakh now. From December 2017 all class ‘‘M’’ and ‘‘N’’ vehicles are being sold only with the Fastags. The Government will come out with a policy to introduce toll system on ‘pay as you use’ basis,” Jaitley said.