The budget presented by the Interim Finance Minister has set the broad direction for taking Indian economy to greater heights. Signalling government’s clear intent to channel technology for the next generation 4th industrial revolution, the aim is to build a modern, technology-driven, high growth, equitable and transparent society. The vision of making India a 5 trillion-dollar economy in another 5 years and a 10 trillion dollar one in 8 years thereafter would necessarily require high technology as the quintessential lynchpin.
Even as the budget highlighted artificial intelligence as the new engine of government’s high technology drive, the Modi government has for long recognised the need to take to latest technologies and adopted them in spheres as widely different as defence and healthcare.
Budget & AI: In the budget, a National Programme on ‘Artificial Intelligence’ was envisaged catalysed by the establishment of the National Centre on Artificial Intelligence as a hub along with Centres of Excellence. Nine priority areas have been identified. A National Artificial Intelligence portal will also be developed soon.
Collaborating with the wider world: World Economic Forum (WEF) Centre for the Fourth Industrial Revolution has been set up in Maharashtra to prepare new policy frameworks for emerging technology with a view to assemble leaders from science, business, academia, start-ups and international organizations on a common platform. To begin with, the Centre in India has selected drones, blockchain and artificial intelligence as the first three project areas. Also, technology-based partnerships with foreign countries such as Canada, the UK actively pursued.
Identification of eight critical technologies by NASSCOM: They include artificial intelligence, virtual reality, robotic process automation, internet of things, big data analytics, 3D printing, cloud computing and social and mobile technologies.
Setting up of National Centre for Artificial Intelligence: It will be part of the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (MeitY) and will work in collaboration with the National Informatics Centre (NIC) and the Centre for Development of Advanced Computing (C-DAC).
Artificial Intelligence Task Force: With specific focus on defence and security, it was to explore AI in the area of aviation, naval, land systems, cyber, nuclear and biological warfare including both defensive and offensive needs including counter AI needs.
Cyber security and cyber defence: An Interdisciplinary Centre for Cyber Security and Cyber Defence of Critical Infrastructures has been set up at IIT Kanpur.
Quantum Information Science & Technology (QuST): This program initiated by Department of Science and Technology aims at developing next generation and futuristic computation, communication and cryptography systems.
Technology-enabled IT assessment with no interface between taxpayers and tax officers: As announced in the budget, the Income-tax Department to turn into a more assessee-friendly one. All returns will be processed in twenty-four hours and refunds issued simultaneously. Within the next two years, almost all verification and assessment of returns selected for scrutiny will be done electronically through anonymised back office operations.
Technology driving employment: As announced in the budget, under the ‘Make in India’ programme, the number of mobile and parts manufacturing companies have increased from 2 to over 268, providing huge job opportunities.
Leveraging technology for exports: The budget also announced that Indian Customs is introducing full and comprehensive digitalization of export/import transactions and leveraging RFID technology to improve export logistics.
Expanding rural industrialisation: Using modern digital technologies towards rural industrialisation while also generating massive employment is the Fourth Dimension of government’s Vision as announced in the budget.
Using technology for food: Department of Biotechnology supports food formulations for Severe Acute Malnutrition in children. The Ready to Use Food (RUTF) supplement with brand name BIB POSHAN, was developed with financial support from DBT. It was made from 100% local ingredients such as soybean oil, sugar, milk powder and peanuts and is dense in calories (550 Kcal / 100 g), high in proteins, vitamins and minerals.
Technology for toilets: As part of Swachh India, Bio-toilet technologies developed by Department of Biotechnology & Biotechnology Industry Research Assistance Council (BIRAC) BIRAC, in collaboration with the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation (BMGF) have already been a major success.
Technology for the disabled: Atlas for Visually Impaired (India) in English Braille has been prepared by National Atlas and Thematic Mapping Organisation (NATMO) under Department of Science & Technology.
Making research interactive through online processes: Science and Engineering Research Board (SERB) has become 100% online for processing of all proposals under its various schemes helping thousands of Scientists to submit their proposals improving the speed of decision making and transparency on the submitted proposals. Then complete online processing of Innovation in Science Pursuit for Inspired Research (INSPIRE) has been put in place, a program that enrolls nearly 1.5 lakhs students every year.
Catching them young through MANAK: In the context of Start-up India initiative of the Government, implementation of Million Minds Augmenting National Aspiration and Knowledge (MANAK) has been initiated to foster a culture of scientific innovation among school children of class VI to class X.
Due Recognition to Scientists: SERB Distinguished Investigator Award (SERB-DIA) approved for early identification and empowerment of exceptional scientists.
Display of global leadership: When International Solar Alliance was jointly launched by Mr Modi, and the then President of France, Mr. François Hollande in 2015 on the sidelines of the 21st Conference of Parties (CoP 21) to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, it signalled a commitment to renewable technologies as a means to counter climate change.
Personalised initiative by Modi: When in an interaction with scientists, Mr Modi made a “personal request” that scientists spend 100 hours per annum with 100 students of classes 9 to 12 to discuss science and technology, he expressed a personal intent to nurture scientific temperament among the youth. He also requested them to extend their research from “labs to the land”.
Indigenous milestones: Introduction of the first indigenously developed and manufactured semi high-speed “Vande Bharat Express” will give the Indian passengers world class experience with speed, service and safety. This major leap in wholly developed technology has been made possible by Indian engineers giving an impetus to the Make in India programme.
Then Institute of Chemical Technology (ICT), Mumbai, has developed India’s first home-grown technology to convert biomass to ethanol with speed and efficiency.
In another instance, the country’s first second-generation (2G) Ethanol plant was set up at Kashipur in Uttarakhand.
Thus, there are a number of ways how Narendra Modi has sincerely sought to utilise technology for the good of the people.