Spectrum auctions for 5G telecom services, the introduction of a digital rupee and e-passports were among several announcements made in the Union Budget on Tuesday that were aimed at boosting the digital economy.
Union Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman, while presenting the Budget, said that the government aims to promote a digital economy and to give a push to technology-enabled development.
Following were some of the announcements that Sitharaman made on Tuesday in this regard:
5G spectrum auctions
Sitharaman announced that 5G spectrum auctions will be conducted in 2022 to enable private players to roll out telecom services. The minister added that a scheme for design-led manufacturing will be formed to create an ecosystem for 5G as part of the production-linked incentive scheme.
“Telecommunication in general, and 5G technology in particular, can enable growth and offer job opportunities,” Sitharaman said while addressing the Lok Sabha.
The government will also give contracts for laying optical fibre in villages, including remote areas, through the public-private partnership method in 2022-’23. The process is expected to be completed by 2025.
“Our vision is that all villages and their residents should have the same access to e-services, communication facilities, and digital resources as urban areas and their residents,” Sitharaman said.
In May, the Union government had allowed telecom service providers to conduct trials for the use and application of 5G technology. Telecom firms Bharti Airtel, Reliance JioInfocomm, Vodafone Idea and MTNL were permitted to conduct the trials.
The government had directed them to conduct trials not just in urban areas, but also in semi-urban and rural areas.
The government will roll out e-passports aimed at ensuring convenient overseas travel in 2022-’23, Sitharaman announced. The e-passports will use embedded chips and futuristic technology, she added.
The government currently issues passports in the form of printed booklets.
In June 2019, External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar had said that the government had begun discussions with the India Security Press about the project to issue e-passports.
On e-passports, information about the holder will be digitally signed and stored in a chip, Mint reported. If anyone tampers with the chip, the system will be able identify it, resulting in an authentication failure.
In 2022-’23, the Reserve Bank of India will issue a new digital rupee using blockchain and other technologies.
The Centre has also announced a 1% tax deduction at source on payments for the transfer of digital assets. Further, Sitharaman said that the recipient of gifts of cryptocurrency assets will also have to pay a tax.
The minister also announced that a tax of 30% will be imposed on any income from the transfer of digital assets. This will have an effect on gains from cryptocurrency and non-fungible tokens.
Sitharaman annnounced on Tuesday that a digital university will be set up to provide access to “world-class quality universal education” and a personalised learning experience.
“The University will be built on a networked hub-spoke model, with the hub building cutting-edge ICT [Information and Communications Technology] expertise,” the minister said. “The best public universities and institutions in the country will collaborate as a network of hub-spokes.”
Sitharaman also announced that the “one class, one TV channel” programme will be expanded from 12 to 200 television channels.
“Due to the pandemic-induced closure of schools, our children, particularly in the rural areas, and those from Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes, and other weaker sections, have lost almost 2 years of formal education,” the minister said. “We recognise the need to impart supplementary teaching and to build a resilient mechanism for education delivery.”
A total of 750 virtual laboratories in science and mathematics and 75 skilling e-labs for simulated learning will also be set up in the upcoming financial year.
The finance minister also made several announcements about the usage of drone technology for various purposes.
She announced that skilling courses for drone applications will be started in select industrial training institutes. The government will also promote startups involving the use of drones, the minister added.
The Centre is also expected to promote the use of “Kisan Drones” for crop assessment, digitisation of land records, spraying of insecticides and nutrients.