The Union Cabinet on Wednesday approved the expansion of the Digital India program with a booster of Rs 14,903 crore to enhance the development of digital skills, cyber security, e-governance services and artificial intelligence (AI).
Cyber security is set to be at the forefront of initiatives under the expanded Digital India plan. About 265,000 citizens will be trained in information security under the Information Security and Education Awareness Phase (ISEA) programme.
Union Minister for Communications, Electronics and Information Technology Ashwini Vaishnav said that the Indian Computer Emergency Response Team (CERT-In) – the government’s nodal agency for cyber forensics, emergency response and cyber diagnosis – will be expanded in a big way. The program will also include development of cyber security tools and integration of over 200 sites with the National Cyber Coordination Centre.
As announced earlier, the government is planning to create three Centers of Excellence (CoEs) for the development of AI research and innovation ecosystem in the country. These centers will focus on health, agriculture and sustainable cities. AI-enabled multi-language translation tool Bhashini, which is currently available in 10 languages, will be launched in all 22 official languages of the country.
The government will also add nine more supercomputers for AI modeling and weather forecasting under the National Supercomputer Mission. This will be in addition to the 18 supercomputers already deployed.
The Digital India program was launched in July 2015 to enable digital delivery of services to citizens. The program has now been extended for a period of five years from 2021-2022 to 2025-2026. The government will support over 1,200 startups from Tier-II and -III cities during the extended period.
The expanded scheme is also directed to implement several announcements made by Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman during the budget speech for FY24. This includes revival of DigiLocker and allowing micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs) and other small organizations access to the digital document verification facility. This could open up a new model of digital credit for small businesses, Vaishnav said.
Under the next phase of the government’s digital effort, around 625,000 IT professionals will be re-skilled and upgraded for next generation technologies like Internet of Things (IoT), AI-ML (Machine Learning), Data Analytics etc. The training will be imparted under the Futureskills prime programme. The National Knowledge Network (NKN), which connects 1,787 educational institutions, will also be modernised.