India telecom budget recommendations from Naresh Wadhwa, president, Cisco India

Telecom Lead India: India has already made its mark in the
global technology map. However, in order to become a nation to reckon with,
there are a few basic hurdles it needs to overcome in terms of broadband
penetration, financial inclusion, education and healthcare.

Empowering rural India is of utmost importance and the
government needs to do so by provisioning for broadband penetration and
financial inclusion. In fact, according to Indian Council for Research on
International Economic Relations, for every 10 per cent increase in Internet
and broadband connections, India could contribute up to $17 billion to the GDP.

With this in view, the government is on the right track
with its allocations last year to connect over two lakh Panchayats in three
years. However, it will be necessary for the government to take more steps in
this direction,” said Naresh Wadhwa, President and Country Manager, Cisco India and SAARC. 

Access to quality health care is another key to achieving
rural empowerment. The budget for this segment was raised marginally last year
and it would be good to have an allocation for rural health care programs with
provisions for technology that would help modernize this sector to expand its
reach through remote healthcare solutions and telemedicine.

Furthermore, the government announced a big campaign Swabhimaan
in the budget last year to promote banking and provide services to about 20,000
villages. In order to meet this goal, the budget this year too would need to
make provisions accordingly. This will also create opportunities for the IT and
infrastructure sectors to help banks reach the unbanked and bring the bulk of
the country’s population into the banking fold.

The industry has been facing a shortage in skilled
workforce for some time now. To bridge the industry and academia divide, it is
important for institutions to introduce more vocation oriented courses at the
plus two and degree levels and the government should take steps to incentivize
this. By 2025, a majority of our young population will enter the workforce.

To empower them to contribute meaningfully to the economy,
it is imperative for the government to ensure that the most basic criterion –
education – is met. Last year, the union budget increased allocation for the
education sector by 24 percent. It included grants for leading institutes,
Sarva Shiksha Abhiyaan, post-matric and pre-matric scholarships etc. It is
encouraging and important to create a skilled workforce necessary for our
country’s growth, and hopefully this year’s budget too has a similar allowance.

The setting up of the National Knowledge Network is also a
significant step in helping to take higher education in the country, to the
next level.

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