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After the Govt’s Big Allocation on Quantum Technologies in 2020, What Next?

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+  One of the highlights of the 2020 budget was the government’s new investment in quantum computing. Finance minister Nirmala Sitharaman’s words then turned the heads of researchers and developers working in this area: “It is proposed to provide an outlay of 8,000 crore rupees over a period of five years for the National Mission on Quantum Technologies and Applications.”

On this count, the economically developed nations are on average far ahead of others. Countries like the US, Canada, Australia and China have already made many advancements towards building usable quantum computers with meaningful capabilities. Against this background, the present government’s decision in February 2020 to invest such a large sum in quantum technologies was an outstanding development.

 

+  It’s important we discuss this topic from a technological perspective. Around four decades ago, physicist Richard Feynman pointed out the possibility of devices like quantum computers in a famous speech. In the early 1990s, Peter Shor and others proved that such computers could easily factor the product of two large prime numbers – a task deemed very difficult for the classical computers we are familiar with. This problem, of prime factorisation, underlies the utility of public key crypto-systems, used to secure digital transactions, sensitive information, etc. online.

+  If we have a practicable quantum computer, the digital security systems currently in use around the world will break down quickly, including that of financial institutions. But commercial quantum computers are still many years away.

+  A logical step in this direction would be to re-invest a large share of the allocation in indigenous development. This is also where the problems lie. One must understand that India has never been successful in fabricating advanced electronic equipment. While we have very good software engineers and theoretical computer scientists, there is no proven expertise in producing chips and circuits. We might have some limited exposure in assembling and testing but nothing beyond that.

Source:  The Wire.  Subhamoy Maitra, After the Govt’s Big Allocation on Quantum Technologies in 2020, What Next?

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