India has set aside big techs in pursuit of cloud for the agricultural industry.
The government has long sought to modernize the agricultural sector, and with the help of Microsoft, Cisco, AWS and others, it hopes to give farmers the tools to better manage their operations. We have been working on a plan called AgriStack for several years. India subsidizes farmers in various ways, and AgriStack would have required farmers to share information such as soil composition to determine eligibility for some payments.
Farmers don’t like the idea and have found allies to worry that Big Tech may not be the best trustee of data on India’s resources.
After some violent protests (some quelled by internet shutdowns), the Modi government scrapped AgriStack but promised to revisit the concept.
Yesterday, Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman unveiled the revised vision in his speech introducing India’s 2023 budget.
“The digital public infrastructure for agriculture will be built as an open source, open standard and interoperable public good,” declared Sitharaman. “This will enable a comprehensive and farmer-friendly approach through crop planning and health related information services, improved access to agricultural inputs, credit and insurance, crop estimation assistance, market intelligence and support for the growth of the agritech industry. A centric solution will allow -UPS.”
India is very enthusiastic about open source public goods. It has already developed and operates the Aadhaar ID system, the Unified Payments Interface digital payments platform and the Open Network for Digital Commerce, which aims to provide an e-commerce alternative to Amazon and WalMart’s presence in India. These and other projects are bundled as IndiaStack and made available to other countries.
Adopting the same approach to the agricultural cloud is therefore taking shape, but also a major shift from India’s previous approach of hand in hand with Big Tech to innovate for farmers.
The country’s budget also proposes eliminating import tariffs on equipment needed to make batteries for use in electric vehicles, signaling an intention to attract more manufacturers of such cells. India’s usual approach is to seek investment from manufacturers wishing to enter the domestic and export markets.
Sitharaman also announced a reduction in import tariffs on items such as camera lenses used in the manufacture of smartphones, helping Indian smartphone makers to increase production from 58 million units in 2014 to 310 million units in 2022. I pointed out that
Another tax adjustment will encourage TV makers to operate in India.
The budget will also allocate funds for new initiatives to ensure India’s wide area sensor network expertise, sufficient cash for the country’s space program, and further facilitation of digital payments. The latter is also a form of taxation as it could shrink India’s cash economy. ®