The union budget 2023 steered by Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman has set the pitch for a digitally savvy India with its emphasis on new-age tech skills and 'make AI in India' vision and 5G. The government has proposed to set up three centres of excellence for artificial intelligence (AI) in top educational institutions to enable 'make AI in India and make AI work for India.'

"Leading industry players will partner in conducting interdisciplinary research, develop cutting-edge applications and scalable problem solutions in agriculture, health and sustainable cities. This will galvanise an effective AI ecosystem and nurture quality human resources in the field," the government said.

Amit Khatri, co-founder of lifestyle tech brand Noise, says that the move offers a massive opportunity for the technology industry and will further boost the R&D capabilities of the country, enabling technology brands to strengthen their innovation efforts. "We hope this will give us an opportunity to truly Make India, for the world," says Khatri. Beerud Sheth, CEO and co-founder at Tiger Global backed Gupshup says that it’s a great bottom-up approach to bring institutions of high calibre and industry to work together on creating state-of-the-art AI products and services.

"These centres of excellence will bring much-needed innovation and solutions for process efficiency, better customer experience and a better citizen experience," says Shah. Online gaming companies can develop new AI-based advancements that can provide a first-of-its-kind experience to users, adds Gaurav Kapoor, Chief Finance Officer at Baazi Games. With AI making its way to almost every other sector of the economy, it was only time the government took note of its potential. Rekha M. Menon, Chairperson and Senior Managing Director at Accenture in India says that AI can add an estimated $450-500 billion to India’s GDP by 2025.

"Our vision for the Amrit Kaal includes a technology-driven and knowledge-based economy with strong public finances, and a robust financial sector," Sitharaman said at the outset of presenting the budget on Wednesday, clearly underlining the government’s heavy prioritisation of the digital. Accordingly, Pradhan Mantri Kaushal Vikas Yojana 4.0 which will be launched to skill lakhs of youth within the next three years will cover new age courses for Industry 4.0 like coding, AI, robotics, mechatronics, IOT, 3D printing, drones, and soft skills.

The lack of adequate talent equipped with new-age tech skills is a crippling problem for the industry and threatens to derail the growth of the digital economy. "The unified skill India digital platform coupled with skilling in areas like robotics, and coding will enable industry-ready talent at scale and foster greater entrepreneurship, helping India realise its demographic dividend and lead in the techade," says Menon.

The government has also proposed to set up a hundred labs for developing applications using 5G services in engineering institutions “to realise a new range of opportunities, business models, and employment potential.” The labs will cover, among others, applications such as smart classrooms, precision farming, intelligent transport systems, and health care applications. The initiative will boost the implementation of industry-wide use cases which have seen limited traction to date due to high time-to-market and uncertainty over ROIs. It will also bring in increased collaboration between the start-up ecosystem and business enterprises across the industry to co-create and monetise disruptive use cases, says Purushothaman KG, Partner and Head, Digital Solutions & Telecommunications Industry Leader, KPMG in India.

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