India’s National Strategy for Artificial Intelligence

Artificial Intelligence (AI) has been making a buzz recently and India has formulated a national strategy for the same to be applied in core areas of strategic relevance. The world is fast-paced and there is no doubt that the coming few years will be a revolutionary era with Internet of Things and machines replacing manual labour and serving our purposes in a blink of an eye.

For India’s Economic Transformation, a Task Force on Artificial Intelligence (AI) was constituted on 24th August 2017, which gave its report on 19th January 2018 and has recommended an Inter-Ministerial National Artificial Intelligence Mission to act as a nodal agency for coordinating AI related activities in India. The recommendations of the Task Force have been shared with various Ministries and Departments of the Government of India.

On 8th February, 2018, in the meeting of Committee of Secretaries, NITI Aayog has been tasked with formulation of a National Strategy Plan for AI in consultation with Ministries and Departments, concerned academia and private sector.

On 4th June 2018 a discussion paper on National Strategy on Artificial Intelligence was published on its website; identifying following five sectors to be focused upon: Healthcare, Agriculture, Education, Smart Cities and Infrastructure, Smart Mobility and Transportation.

The Minister of State of Commerce and Industry, C. R. Chaudhary, in a written reply in the Rajya Sabha further informed that in order to create a policy framework and to develop the ecosystem for Artificial Intelligence, Ministry of Electronics & Information Technology has constituted four committees covering all the aspects of AI.

These Committees are:

  1. Committee on platforms and data for AI,
  2. Committee on leveraging AI for identifying National Missions in key sectors,
  • Committee on mapping technological capabilities, key policy enablers, skilling, re-skilling and R&D
  1. Committee on cyber security, safety, legal and ethical issues.

 

Focus areas

Healthcare

Being the most dynamic and challenging sectors in India, the healthcare is estimated to grow to USD 280 billion by 2020 from the current USD 100 billion. With the application of AI in this sector, the major challenges of quality, affordability and accessibility can be addressed. Major projects under discussion namely the ‘Digital Pathology’ and ‘Imaging Biobank’ for cancer will be helpful in detection of the disease accurately and precisely in a very early stage!

 

Smart Cities and Infrastructure

 

Areas elaborated in the report such as poor urban planning, inefficient utility distribution, improved delivery of citizen services and improvement of public safety can be eliminated through AI with Smart City and Intelligent City concepts.

AI driven service delivery like predictive service delivery based on citizen data, AI based grievance redressal through chat-bots, crowd management, intelligent safety systems and prevention of cyber-attacks are key highlights of the report.

 

A joint venture between Microsoft and Indian start-up ‘Forus Health’ has come up with a portable device termed “3Nethra” which can screen for common eye problems as well as complicated conditions like diabetic retinopathy.

 

Agriculture

 

This sector continues to be dependent on unpredicted variables with weak supply chain and low productivity. ‘Doubling Farmer’s Income’ as a national agenda has been the government’s recent priority. This sector is seeing widespread participation by start-ups, for example, Intello Labs uses image-recognition software for monitoring crops and predict farm yields. Drone technology is used by Trithi Robotics to let farmers monitor crops in real time and provide precise analysis of their soil.

AI will have significant global impact on agricultural productivity at all levels of value chain through AI sowing app, herbicide optimization, precision farming and soil care.

 

Education

 

AI tools with major focus on adaptive learning tools for customized learning and intelligent and interactive tutoring systems will help address the challenges like low retention rates in rural schools and poor learning outcomes.

CTI, Content Technologies Inc. is an AI research and development organization that builds up AI to create customized educational content.

The overall strategy of the Union government can be segregated into three major sections:

  1. Opportunities and economic impact of Artificial Intelligence.
  2. India specific key challenges and focus areas of AI execution.
  3. Different initiatives identified for AI implementation in India and the role of different stakeholders (Start-Up, Academia, Citizens, Tech-Giants) and the government’s role in making these a success.

 

Setting up of Centre of Research Excellence (CORE) has been recommended, in view of the importance of research and its commercial application in success of AI. CORE would help to focus on developing better understanding of existing core research.

The ministry also recommends setting up of International Centres of Transformational AI with a directive for developing and deploying application–based research in alliance with private players in the market.

 

From the Rs 200 crore corpuses allocated under the Atal Innovation Mission, the initial plans of India seem to fund its AI programmes.  This however is non-congruous in comparison to the $150 billion committed by China. The government thereby is expected to enhance this amount substantially through the help of private partnership after the finalisation of this strategy paper and an action plan on AI is put in place.

 

The Finance Ministry has been delegated with the task of initiating a national program to direct the efforts of the government in the area of AI. This would include research and development of its applications in the Union Budget 2018.

 

 

Prospects

 

There are huge opportunities and economic impact that AI can bring.  It has been estimated that AI will boost India’s annual growth rate by 1.3 percentage points by 2035 which interprets to adding an approximately 1 trillion $ to India’s economy.

A widespread transformative impact is also hoped upon to be created through AI. This will affect overall quality of life of Indians.

 

There is an indication of India providing a great playground for enterprises and institutions globally so that it can develop solutions that can be materialised and are easily executable in other developing and evolving economies.

 

With the potential to provide large incremental value to a wide range of sectors worldwide, the AI is expected to be the key source of economical advantage for firms.

 

 Challenges

  • Shortage of expertise
  • Absence of data ecosystem
  • Privacy and security issues
  • Lack of awareness
  • Absence of any collaboration

 

What more…

To encourage the development of sustainable AI solutions at a suitable price for sectors like healthcare, education and agriculture, there is a need to create multi-stakeholder marketplace. More facilitation is needed on creating large foundational interpreted data sets which will enable and accelerate development of AI solutions by start-ups and other AI research organizations. Partnership and collaborative approach that involves stakeholders and the government should be implied. In order to increase adoption and support AI start-ups financially, innovative initiatives are ideal such as ‘Spreading awareness of the advantages of AI offers’ and establishment of a National AI marketplace (NAIM) and ‘Data Marketplace’. Issues related with its implementation such as growing privacy, ethics and security also need more focus. Remediation and regulatory measures are required to deal with issues of safe and secure AI applications and contribute towards better life and mankind. Government has to strengthen its role as one prime facilitator and an active promoter. There are scopes of developments for home utility, women, employment and villages to name a few.

 

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