India's artificial intelligence journey could get a big boost this year.
The National Institution for Transforming India (NITI) Aayog is reportedly going to release a first-ever national policy on AI directly rivalling whatever's going on in China on the subject. The policy will chalk out the scope of AI via research and how the technology will be adopted in the years to come.
According to an Economic Times report, NITI Aayog will form the policy with short, medium and long term goals in mind, spread up to 2030.
The commercial side of AI implementation will be proposed to be done in agriculture, health, education and banking sectors among others. This year, Finance Minister Arun Jaitley has also doubled the allocation on the Digital India programme to ₹3,073 crore in 2018-19, with focus on future-proof technologies like machine learning and artificial intelligence (AI).
With China making rapid progress in AI-based research, it is imperative that India views AI as a critical element of national security strategy. Spurring AI-based innovation and establishing AI-ready infrastructure are thus necessary to prepare India’s jobs and skills markets for an AI-based future and to secure its strategic interests.
There is tremendous potential in AI and its impact on the economy as a whole. According to an Assocham report, the cumulative economic impact of AI is pegged to be between $1.49 trillion and $2.95 trillion through 2025.
AI-based applications to date have been driven largely by the private sector and have been focused primarily in consumer goods. The scale at which AI is being positioned, makes it imperative for policymakers in government to take notice.
Online shopping portals have extensively been using predictive capabilities to gauge consumer interest in products by building a targeted understanding of preferences through collection of browsing and click-stream data. The technology remains the same, but its impact on the legacy workflow of other sectors could ease the revenue streams for the economy in big way.
Plenty of Work to be Done
According to a recent report by KellyOCG India, the demand for AI and machine learning specialists in the country will rise by 60 percent in 2018 due to increased automation. And to meet this supply-demand paradigm, the government could open up the floodgates for existing AI-based companies to leverage.
Most of India’s data pool is collected at data servers abroad, and this poses serious question marks about the security of the country’s citizens and their data. AI-enabled public sector entities could benefit from government funding to upgrade its archaic digital infrastructure.
According to a Carneige Report from 2016, South Korea pledged up to $840 million in public-private partnerships, which will drive research in AI.
Mixed signals have been raised about the impact automation of work-force will have on the country’s job climate. There’s a World Bank research which points out that over 69 percent jobs are under threat in India due to rise in automation.
Another research firm said over 6.4 lakh low-skilled positions would be vacant owing to automation. This epitomises the need for a stringent set of policies to bring the AI house in order.
Andrew Ng, co-founder of Coursera and an expert in the field AI and machine learning (ML), stated that India should compete in new set of rules – build AI-centric organisations, this way their growth in the domain will steadily pick up. The Indian government should take his advice.
The skilling of millions of students in AI programming, according to him, will require them to train in basic programming skills and rudimentary knowledge of machine learning. How India plans to tackle the re-skilling part of the AI project, will shape the course of employment in the coming years.