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Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman today revealed what is in store for AI as she unveiled the Union Budget 2023-24. “The Indian economy is the “bright star” amid looming fears of economic slowdown with an estimated growth of 7%,” she added.
This year’s budget placed a special emphasis on AI literacy and the practical implementation of digital practices.
The minister announced the establishment of three ‘Centres of Excellence in Artificial Intelligence’ at leading academic institutions, aimed at fulfilling the goals of ‘Make AI in India’ and ‘Make AI work for India’. These centres will explore the frontiers of scalable solutions in agriculture, health, sustainability, and more.
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“This will galvanise an effective AI ecosystem and nurture quality human resources in the field, “ said the FM.
The Modi government has always stressed on the growing importance of AI, although it remains silent on the allocation of funds for industries such as supercomputing and semiconductors.
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The government also introduced a National Data Governance Policy to catalyse innovation and research by startups, by providing access to anonymized data. The KYC process will be streamlined with a risk-based approach instead of a one-size-fits-all method, with financial sector regulators encouraged to develop a KYC system that aligns with the goals of “Digital India”. As part of this, National Digital Libraries will be established.
The budget expands the reach of DigiLocker, creating a separate entity for MSMEs and large corporations. The PM VIKAS program now includes social security and access to digital payments.
The budget also proposes the creation of 100 labs for rolling 5G services. The labs will cover applications such as smart classrooms, precision farming, intelligent transport systems, healthcare applications, etc. Plus, a new unified ‘Skill India’ digital platform will be launched to expand the upskilling ecosystem in India. It will connect job seekers with employers, including MSMEs, and provide stipend support for 47 lakh young people over the next three years.
The FM added that customs duty on the seeds used in the manufacture of lab-grown diamonds, which can be used for space tech, quantum computing, and telecommunications will be decreased, announced the finance minister. She also disclosed a grant to the IITs to support the expansion of LDGs in India.
This year’s budget announcement also spoke on the reliance on digital payments. Sitharaman said that in 2022, digital payments saw a 76 percent surge in transactions and a 91 percent spike in value, reaching a total of 7,400 crore digital payments worth INR 126 lakh crore made via UPI. She said that the digital public infrastructure (DPI) will continue to get financial assistance.