India Must Focus on Reskilling Workforce to Meet AI Demand: Expert

Andrew NG, a leading expert in the AI domain, talks about India’s need for transition to artificial intelligence.

Tech News
3 min read
India Must Focus on Reskilling Workforce to Meet AI Demand: Expert

Instead of looking to challenge the established order, companies in India should look at setting up their workforce focussing on artificial intelligence (AI), said Andrew NG, co-founder of Coursera and a leading expert in the domain.

According to a recent report by KellyOCG India, the demand for AI and machine learning specialists in the country was expected rise by 60 percent by 2018 due to increased automation.

However, the same report points to the lack of skilled workforce with experience in technologies like deep learning and neutral networks.

Most experts were of the opinion that while AI was a challenge for India, it offered an untapped opportunity.

India should compete in new set of rules – build AI-centric organisations, this way their growth in the domain will steadily pick up.  
Andrew NG, co-founder, Coursera 

Andrew is known for his expertise in the field of AI, deep learning, and machine learning, among others.

He’s been the head of China-based internet giant Baidu and is also the co-founder of Coursera, where he’s working on courses around these subjects, which claims to have harboured over 1.8 million students till date.

So, when an expert like Andrew says something, you ought to take note!

Andrew felt that India must leapfrog from existing trends to focus on what’s going to shape industries in the coming decade; for instance, like how it jumped technologies from leased lines to cell phones.

World Bank research said 69 percent jobs are under threat in India due to rise in automation, while another research firm said over 6.4 lakh low-skilled positions would be vacant owing to automation.

Various analysts have pointed out the lack of skilled workforce that can cater to the demand for AI, but Andrew felt such instances have been over-hyped.

Every country faces the possibility of lagging in the AI race, but countries like India need to pick up the pace to match its global peers.
Andrew NG

More Work Needed to Become a Competitive Market

Andrew said India’s software product ecosystem isn’t as good as the US, and limited avenues to study AI have resulted in slower evolution of the industry.

Most Indians are studying online, reading research papers, watching YouTube videos. Which is why my team at Coursera is looking to make subjects like AI accessible to everyone.

AI – No Threat to Mankind

This was the most emphatic view point of Andrew, who said that instead of seeing AI as an obstruction to growth, we should utilise its strengths to develop it faster.

I’d love to live in a society built around AI devices. The risk of democratising access to AI is similar to providing access to electricity.

AI was being used for the betterment of society, he said, adding that he was confident that making AI available to everyone would make the world a better place.

“We need people to help speed up AI. There’s no significant need to regulate AI. Also, nobody is building AI products with evil thoughts in mind,” he said.


Reskilling in AI, but How?

“Majority of the present workforce needs to reskill itself, but not without the help of the government and definitely with some inputs from technology giants like Google and Microsoft,” said Andrew.

The Chinese government was pushing to set up an established AI ecosystem, he added.

The Chinese government is pushing for development of AI by inviting corporate as well as public investment. 

Other than reskilling, he pointed the need to build an army of skilled people from the future generation which would be in a better position to take the industry forward.

Speaking about the requisite to undertake a course in AI, Andrew said basic programming skills and rudimentary knowledge of machine learning would be required.

“We don’t have enough people to do the AI work right now, and instead of worrying about the impact of AI, we should look at creating jobs and empower those who’ll be displaced,” he said.

CEOs from various companies have already shared their concerns with regards to reskilling their existing employees, but that, as Andrew rightly states, could take years before turning into reality.

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