The Budget this year is a milestone for the Central government. It addresses issues relating to Bharat with time-bound pro-poor, pro-farmer programmes, creates productive capacity through public investment without cutting expenditure, and provides a roadmap to a stable and transparent tax regime. The government has shown its commitment to ‘minimum government, maximum governance’, using ‘technology’ as the catalyst.
The Digital India programme augments the priority areas around the rural sector, skills, job creation, and financial sector reforms identified in the Budget. A Digital First ecosystem is being created, and in it the government is a major user of technology for rolling out schemes, project management, data empowerment and government-to-citizen interfaces.
With Aadhaar receiving legislative backing, the Narendra Modi government has shown its commitment to move to a single number-linked platform to ensure that the benefits reach the deserving. The passage of the Bill shows the government’s commitment to use technology to fix the plumbing and reduce leakages from the expenditure charged on the Consolidated Fund of India.
The seeding of the Aadhaar number in various government-to-citizen databases and strengthening the Jan Dhan-Aadhaar-Mobile framework for developing social security platforms are transformative. After a successful rollout of direct benefits transfer (DBT) for LPG, the government is encouraged to introduce DBT on a pilot basis for fertilisers in a few districts across the country.
A Unified Agricultural Marketing e-Platform has been proposed to provide a common e-market for wholesale markets, which will connect up to 250 ‘mandis’ by September this year, and another 335 by March 2018. This is in line with the goal of doubling farm income in the next five years. To ensure that the benefits of technology reach the grassroots, a Digital Literacy Mission Scheme has been announced to cover 60 million additional households in three years.
With the revamping of the National Land Record Modernisation Programme, the major components of computerising land records mutations, digitising maps and integrating textual and spatial data, updating all survey and settlement records, computerising registration and its integration with the land records maintenance system will be linked to Aadhaar. This will lead to better tax realisation and help in dispute resolution, better credit facilities, etc.
A Financial Data Management Centre is to be set up and it will help in streamlining tax collections and act as a hub for recording and analysing the data collected. The continued emphasis on self-certifications and e-assessment will also pass on the benefits of technology efficiency to the citizens as well as overloaded government departments.
Harnessing the power of the JAM trinity, payments infrastructure, paperless culture, big data and internet technologies, both horizontally and vertically within the government, can transform processes and result in knowledge-based governance. While the challenges faced by governments are colossal, these technologies provide opportunities for enhancing the power of the government to take decisions and provide transparent, cost-effective, accountable, time-bound solutions and services to its citizens and businesses.
Arvind Gupta is a digital entrepreneur, Eisenhower Fellow for Innovation, and is heading the BJP’s information and technology cell
The views expressed are personal.