The Financial Express

Easing digital path to growth   

Published: June 18, 2020 22:21:48 | Updated: June 20, 2020 22:33:30

Easing digital path to growth    

With their mobility markedly reduced by the pandemic containment measures like lockdown, and the public thus made to stay within the four walls of their houses for weeks together, the only window of their contact with the rest of the world has obviously been the telephone, especially the mobile or cell phone. Apart from receiving or sending calls and texting messages, this digital device has indeed become an indispensable possession of every person, poor or rich. Serving with the help of various apps to perform a hundred and one important functions, it goes without saying how hard the impact would be on its user, if the device itself or the calls it receives or sends, or the data that traverse it or the many varieties of service provided through it should get costlier.

Considering that it is so essential in everyday life, especially at a time when the general public's dependency on it has increased many times more than before, it is necessary that the cell phone and its services should be more affordable, rather than pricier. But in the recently proposed budget for the upcoming fiscal year, FY21, a supplementary duty of 15 per cent has been levied on the data usage, calls or any other service made available through the cell phones. This is an addition of 5 per cent over the existing 10 per cent supplementary duty on the mobile phone's usage. Add to this the 1 (one) per cent duty imposed on the handsets making it and its use less affordable than before.

In the circumstances, the common users of a cell phone and its service hope that the extra duty proposed on this item of everyday use would be reconsidered by the government and thereby dispel their anxieties at a time when everyone is feeling the pinch.

The case for a less costly cell phone and its service is more than just about relieving the consumers of the burden of extra financial pressure. In fact, it is more about facilitating the nation's continued march on its path towards the goal of total digitalization.  And the importance of it had never been so obvious to the public than during the times of lockdown. 

It is believed that the policymakers in the government are fully aware of the fact that the more affordable the various ICT products and their services are to their users, the more widespread will become this technology's application in the economy and the businesses. So, from either point of view, the plea for lifting the added duty on mobile phone and its various services merits serious consideration.

Alongside the cellular phone, other ICT-related products and services should come under similar sympathetic considerations of the government. While the budget's proposal to completely withdraw excise duties on wireless data cards or reduce from 10 per cent to 5 per cent the duties on portable digital entertainment devices are highly appreciated, an increase in excise duties on packaged and customized software from existing 8 to 12 per cent will make those costlier putting an additional cost to the corporate bodies' IT budgets.

Expectedly, in the greater interest of further easing the effort towards digitalization, the government would rethink the move.

At this important stage of laying the digital path to the country's economic growth, the government's support is regarded as pivotal. Hopefully, those in authority are quite perceptive of the points at issue and will address them in right earnest when the nation is at a juncture.

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