Coming as it does at a time of rapidly evolving macroeconomic dynamics and heightened domestic interest because of political and economic considerations, the Union Budget 2023 is pragmatic and forward-looking.
It seeks to provide a much-needed fillip to all-encompassing growth by using multiple levers — inclusion, skilling, consumption, green development, capital expenditure, ease of doing business, and so on — benefitting every section of the society in some way or another without compromising on fiscal discipline.
Efficiency & effectiveness
To me, the more striking aspect is the budget’s emphatic acknowledgment of how integral technology has become to efficiency and effectiveness across diverse walks of governance —from digital means for artisans to integrate with the MSME value chain, to the computerisation of agricultural credit societies; from e-courts for swifter administration of justice, to the use of the cloud for better interfacing between individuals, businesses, authorities, regulators, financial institutions, and so on. Although there are no material announcements for our sector, the budget is positive because of its determined focus on emerging technologies, talent development, and industry-academia collaboration.
While ICT implementation has been time and again highlighted in the context of innovative pedagogy, the move to develop District Institutes of Education and Training as institutes of excellence is a welcome step in that direction. As is the announcement of centres of excellence for Artificial Intelligence in top educational institutions in collaboration with industry players. They will address the pressing need for an ecosystem and talent pool conducive for driving interdisciplinary research and homegrown solutions to uniquely Indian needs.
By diving deeper into optimal protocols for the use of data for public good, the proposed National Data Governance Policy will not just enable better innovation and research, but also strengthen trust-based governance. Considering the growing significance of cloud and data technologies, the accent on 5G is timely and holds the promise of path-breaking transformation.
The proposal to set up 100 labs for developing 5G applications, that too in engineering institutions, will not just help unlock newer business and employment opportunities, but also provide an important avenue for the industry and academia to combine forces. Such initiatives need to be expanded in order for our globally acknowledged technology strengths to make a difference locally as well.
By far, skilling and human capital development is the headline story in this budget. At a time when talent has become synonymous with competitiveness for India’s IT/ITeS industry, skilling initiatives under the National Education Policy, including the creation of 30 Skill India International Centres, will add to India’s credentials as the most scalable global hub of Industry 4.0 skills ranging from AI, and robotics, to IoT.
The pandemic has brought about a sea change in the concept of work and new-age sectors such as ours have gone all out to take work to talent instead of bringing talent to work. While reasonable progress has been made in tapping the potential of Tier 2 and Tier 3 cities to expand the available talent pool and reduce concentration in overstretched Tier 1 locations, the push to create urban infrastructure in Tier 2 and Tier 3 cities through a dedicated Urban Infrastructure Development Fund will help augment the attractiveness of Tier 2 and Tier 3 destinations.
Employability of talent has been a raging concern for the industry. With its focus on demand-based formal skilling, and linkages to employers and entrepreneurship programmes, the Skill India Digital platform will certainly help deal with the issue. More clarity and detail on the actual gains made to date will help channelise and maximise the full potential of such programmes. Notwithstanding a workforce infusion of 13 million people every year, the industry still has to contend with the challenge of only one in 10 graduates, one in 5 engineers, and one in 4 MBAs being employable. It is therefore high time that a policy framework with appropriate incentives was laid out to broad base the collaboration between industry and academia, both of whom are already doing all they can to make a difference.
(The author is the CEO and Managing Director of LTIMindtree)