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Moving Towards an AI-led Economic Transformation

India is embracing technologies of the future, such as machine learning and Artificial Intelligence (AI) to cater to the specific needs of industries such as healthcare, education, manufacturing, among others. This will instigate an AI-led transformation of the country where most things and services will be automated, which in turn will lead to an economic boost for the country.

What is Artificial Intelligence?

Artificial Intelligence (AI) refers to the ability of a computer or a computer-enabled robotic system to process information and produce outcomes in a manner similar to the thought process of humans in learning, decision-making, and solving problems.

Primarily, AI and machine learning can automate repetitive tasks, learn personal preferences of end-consumers, and create systems that consistently improve upon their own performance. These are only a few in a long list of innovative solutions that AI and machine learning can provide, and their impact upon India’s economy will be no less than revolutionary. According to the PwC report on Artificial Intelligence in India – Hype or Reality – AI is expected to have the largest impact on banking, financial services and insurance by providing a number of solutions aimed at automation processes, customer support, regulatory processes, etc. Other solutions include decision support systems, automated communications and research in the manufacturing sector, information aggregation and automated research in the education field, along with many other applications across sectors.

The AI Revolution in India: Are We Ready?

To fuel the AI revolution, the prerequisites of data, skilling and training, and software/equipment need to be put in place on priority. Fortunately, the Indian government has already undertaken initiatives to ensure the success of AI in India.

In February, 2018, Hon’ble Prime Minister Narendra Modi touted Artificial Intelligence (AI) as a technology that can be “harnessed to better the lives of the underprivileged, the marginalised and the needy.” In the budget presentation in the same month, Finance Minister Arun Jaitley doubled the fund allocation on the Digital India programme to ₹3,073 crore in 2018-19, with a focus on future-proof technologies like machine learning and AI, and has announced a national programme on AI to be spearheaded by NITI Aayog.

A high-level committee headed by NITI Aayog Vice Chairman Rajiv Kumar has since been formed to formulate a roadmap for India’s research and development on AI. Further, NITI Aayog and Google have partnered to work towards the development of AI and Machine Learning in India. As part of this partnership, NITI Aayog and the technology giant will also work on organising training for relevant government functionaries, thus enabling more effective governance. The government has certainly recognised the need for research and development in cutting-edge technologies.

The Need for a Cogent Policy Framework

NITI Aayog is expected to come out with a policy document for Artificial Intelligence soon. AI in India needs an ecosystem that is supportive of research, innovation, and commercialisation of applications. Further, AI-relevant data needs to be collected, archived and distributed in a way that compromises neither on ethics nor on privacy.

To promote research, setting up of Centres of Excellence, and putting in place incentives (both fiscal and non-fiscal) can be particularly beneficial. Strategy formulation can be accelerated by forming cooperative relationships with countries that are the front-runners in AI, such as Japan, Germany, Singapore, China, etc. Initiatives to successfully adopt and deploy AI in India are already being undertaken across the country.

There is tremendous potential in AI and machine learning technologies and their impact on the economy as a whole. With concrete efforts towards a cogent policy and legal framework, India will be set for an AI-led economic transformation.