The Union Budget 2016 was tabled in the Lower House of the Indian Parliament on 29th February 2016, as is done each financial year. Presented by Finance Minister Arun Jaitley, the Budget saw majority of the announcements aimed towards the rural sector. Emphasis was also on the government's ambitious projects - Start Up India and Digital India.
Here are all of the top tech announcements - extracted from the complete speech - that are relevant from a consumer technology point of view.
1. National digital literacy programs
Enabling millions of Indians to get online and become digitally literate, the Indian government announced two new programmes under the Digital India campaign - the National Digital Literacy Mission and the Digital Saksharta Abhiyan. Aimed at connecting the rural and urban demographics through the capacity of Internet provision, these programs will also help the rural youth by generating digital employment opportunities and enhancing skill development in industrial training institutions.
2. Approval for Start Up India campaign
Initiated in January 2016 by PM Narendra Modi, the StartUp India campaign is aimed at bringing benefits to entrepreneurs, especially in the innovation and technology sector. With the Union Budget 2016, the government announced the approval from Cabinet and offered tax rebates to eligible entrepreneurs for the first 3-5 years from commencement of business.
3. E-Platform for rural agricultural producers
The Union Budget is focused primarily on rural development and a promising feature is the setting up of an online e-commerce portal enabling rural agricultural producers to register and sell their products online. Without the hassle of traders and middlemen, the government claims at developing a transparent and easy to use e-platform that will be further complimented by the digital literacy programs. With this project, the government aims to connect upto 250 local mandis by September 2016 and 585 mandis by March 2018.
4. Plans to reduce the digital divide
Finance Minister Arun Jaitley claimed that out of the 168 million rural households in the country, over 120 million are not connected to the Internet, thus leading to a significant digital divide. Through the efforts of the Digital Literacy campaigns and providing subsidy and awareness on sale of computers, tablet PCs and smartphones, the government aims at reducing that divide and getting more of the untapped demographic, online.
5. Digital Depository for schools/universities
Jaitley also proposed a Digital Depository for all major schools and universities in the country. This Depository will digitally store all school-leaving documents of students, to be easily accessed in the future. The practice of physically storing such documents has been prevalent in rural as well as urban areas, increasing the probability of non-procurement of student documents on demand.
6. Technology for creating accountability
In a first, the Finance Minister announced that technological advancements would be used appropriately to create a sense of accountability in all departments. He said, "Technology is a boon for mankind. We plan to use technology in taxation Department in a big way to make life simpler for a law abiding citizen, and also for data mining to track tax evaders."
7. Resolve Income Tax return complaints online
Running a pilot since last year, Arun Jaitley announced that the Income Tax Department would finally be implementing the 'e-Sahyog' initiative that aims at reducing compliance cost and time through resolutions via an online portal of the department. This project will be beneficial for small income tax payers - enabling them to resolve any mismatches in their income tax returns - without having to physically visit the Income Tax office.