Pranab Mukherjee’s announcements of the Goods and Services Tax (GST), an expanded information highway for colleges and attempts at improving farm sector health critically rely on technological infrastructure that India is desperately trying to put in place.
From major financial sector reforms to improving the health of Indian agriculture, the absence of a technological backbone is holding back implementation as much as political and other considerations, government officials conceded a day after the budget announcements.
The Prime Minister and the finance minister in recent days have focused on political opposition from some states as a factor holding back the implementation of the GST. But the government also needs the information technology backbone for the GST rollout. The National Securities Depository Limited (NSDL) has been selected to nurture a National Information Utility (NIU) that will establish and operate this IT backbone for the GST, Mukherjee said on Monday. A pilot portal is planned for June 2011.
The NIU was proposed by a Nandan Nilekani led team – called the Technology Advisory Group for Unique Projects (TAGUP) – with a specific mandate to come up with technology solutions for the GST and other financial sector initiatives including a tax information network and an expenditure information network.
Another key proposal made in the budget — expanding the National Knowledge Network to link 1,500 colleges on an information highway by April 2012 — depends on constructing an extensive fibre optic network stretching across the country. The government has frequently slipped on its internal targets on the NKN.
“Unless the technology backbone is in place, reaching 1,500 colleges through the NKN is out of the question,” a senior IT department official said. “But there is a greater realisation than ever before of the need to fast-track this infrastructure and we are optimistic.”Must haves