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Tech sector hails Budget, says it aims to put India on world Quantum map

FM Nirmala Sitharaman's Budget has proposed a Rs 8,000 cr outlay over next 5 years to set up a National Mission on Quantum Technology and Applications

Peerzada Abrar Neha Alawadhi & Debasis Mohapatra  |  Bengaluru & Delhi 

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The Indian tech-industry has welcomed the thrust on emerging technologies, including quantum computing and building of data centre parks in the country in Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman’s Budget presented on Saturday. The technology could propel India to the forefront of hack-proof communication in sectors such as banking, defence and national and homeland security.

Sitharaman told Parliament this year's budget has proposed an outlay of Rs 8,000 crore over the next five years to set up a National Mission on Quantum Technology and Applications. "Quantum technology is opening up new frontiers in computing, communications, cybersecurity with wide‐spread applications," the FM said in her budget speech. “It is expected that lots of commercial applications would emerge from theoretical constructs which are developing in this area.”

Quantum computing is expected to disrupt entire industries from cybersecurity and telecommunications to medicine, finance and manufacturing. Quantum computers can process massive and complex datasets more efficiently than classical computers (like your desktop), according to research firm CB Insights. They use the fundamentals of quantum mechanics to speed up the process of solving complex computations. Often those computations incorporate a seemingly unlimited number of variables, and the potential applications span industries from genomics to finance, according to CB Insights.

Experts said US and China have committed billions of dollars in quantum computing as they understand the strategic importance of quantum technology in both economy and military. Chinese President Xi Jinping has already funded a multi-billion-dollar quantum computing mega-project with the aim of reaching key quantum breakthroughs by 2030. China is also building the National Laboratory for Quantum Information Sciences. In 2018, the US President Donald Trump signed into law a bill that enables the government to invest $1.2 billion to promote research in the field of quantum information science.

“With today's announcement, this government has taken a bold and much-needed step to put India on the world's Quantum map,” said Sunil Gupta, co-Founder and chief executive at QNu Labs, which is the only firm in the country to successfully develop Quantum cyber-security products. Its solutions solve the problem of secure key distribution by allowing the exchange of a cryptographic key between two remote parties over a quantum channel, even in the presence of an eavesdropper.

Gupta of QNu Labs said while efforts in Quantum computing will bring benefits in several areas such as new materials research, space exploration and machine learning applications, the immediate benefit of this investment will come in the area of cybersecurity which is directly related to government focus on national security. He said this is because the dark side of quantum computers is that it can break most of the prevalent encryption schemes putting critical data and national secrets to unimaginable risks. Some of the biggest technology players, including Google, Alibaba, Intel, IBM and Microsoft are already betting big on quantum computing for better cybersecurity. “Significant part of this investment (budget) should go into building and deploying Quantum secure networks in defence and critical infrastructure of the country,” said Gupta. “India needs some policy support to make the best use of the investment been committed.”

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“A national policy for Quantum technology will be a significant step in boosting research and innovation in the country,” said Puneet Gupta, chief executive of biotechnology startup Clensta International.

Calling data as the new oil, Finance Minister Sitharaman said in her budget speech that the government would soon come out with a policy to build data centre parks throughout the country. "It will enable our firms to skilfully incorporate data in every step of their value chains," said Sitharaman.

“The announcement of the proposal to set-up data centres is a step in the right direction in terms of acknowledging the importance of data and data analytics,” said Keshab Panda, chief executive and managing director of L&T Technology Services.

Omkar Rai, Director General, Software Technology Parks of India (STPI) said the policy initiative on data centres across will strengthen the necessary IT-grade infrastructure required for discharging services to the remotest part of the country. He said it would also bridge the digital divide, revolutionize the digital economy and significantly play a catalytic role in securing data sovereignty of the nation. “Eventually it will also bring enormous foreign direct investment into this sector,” said Rai.

Local data centre operator Web Werks, which is based in Mumbai, welcomed the move by the government to set up data centre parks as it is becoming very critical in the development of the digital economy. “With India being an underserved market, having policies about establishing data centre parks gives the nation a digital push,” said Nikhil Rathi, chief executive and founder of Web Werks.

First Published: Sat, February 01 2020. 18:29 IST
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