October , 2019
Artificial Intelligence and India
14:11 pm

Aritra Mitra

Artificial Intelligence (AI) presents opportunities to complement human intelligence and enhance the way of living and working. AI is poised to disrupt the human world with intelligent machines enabled of high-level cognitive processes like thinking, perceiving, learning, problem solving and decision making, coupled with advances in data collection and aggregation, analytics and computer processing power.

According to a survey undertaken by PwC, 60% of the participants are of the opinion that AI would help furthering social causes that include stimulating economic growth, enhancing global health and well-being. The same survey reports 75% of the business decision makers would prefer either purely AI advisors or a combination of AI and human advisors to make their promotion decisions. But when it comes to matters of personal health check-ups, 77% of the respondents are inclined towards human involvement.

A recent Microsoft-IDC study stated that AI is expected to grow more than double the rate of innovation and employee productivity in India by 2021. While only one-third of organisations in India having embarked on their AI journeys, those companies that have adopted this technology expect it to increase their competitiveness by 2.3 times in 2021.

Reservations about AI

Dr. Utpal Garain, Professor, Indian Statistical Institute, whose research interest is in deep learning, big data and AI systems, stated that enterprises all over the world are hardly in a position to use the complete spectrum of AI benefits. He told BE, “In some enterprises management is not convinced about the benefits in terms of revenue. They are scared of taking any decision which seems perpendicular to the existing practice along with some limitations of technical expertise. The enterprises which have right support groups often suffer from a lack of coordination among process, data and analytics teams.”

He further added that some start-ups in India have been very confident about using AI and it is possible that the start-ups may act as fillers of the present gaps. The industry leaders will get confidence if they can see something is really happening for them. Once they get confidence, AI-friendliness will come automatically.

Government initiatives

In the 2018–2019 Budget, NITI Aayog was mandated to establish the ‘National Program on AI’ realising the potential of AI to transform economies and the need for India to strategise its approach.

A report titled ‘National Strategy for Artificial Intelligence’ by NITI Aayog suggests, “NITI Aayog has adopted a three-pronged approach – undertaking exploratory proof-of-concept AI projects in various areas, crafting a national strategy for building a vibrant AI ecosystem in India and collaborating with various experts and stakeholders.”

This strategy proposed for a unique brand of #AIforAll. The report stated, “#AIforAll will aim at enhancing and empowering human capabilities to address the challenges of access, affordability, shortage and inconsistency of skilled expertise.”

Innovations in India

Garain said, “Impressive innovations are taking place in different academic and industry research labs including labs in ISI, ICTS, IISc Bangalore, few IITs and IIIT-Hyderabad. Our researchers are coming up with innovations in the field of natural language processing, image and vision computing by using newer AI algorithms. Innovation in many institutions is sometime crippled due to unavailability of required hardware resources.”

It is evident that a nationwide facility for AI computation may help others to catch up. Industry labs do not expose their research details in the public domain. However, results show TCS is catching up rapidly. Indian offices of Capital One DataLab, Amazon, Microsoft Research, Google, IBM Research and many others are achieving striking progress.

Garain informed, “A few smaller and less known companies like AlphansoTV and a few others are showing wonderful advances. Young minds in start-up companies are creating AI magic and selling their expertise to many global giants.”

An emerging academic discipline

Siddhartha Dutta, Founder and Director at Fox Web Wizardz, informed BE, “We have gladly embraced AI, Internet of Things (IoT), augmented and virtual reality, machine learning (ML), big data analytics, robotic process automation and so on but there’s a need of upskilling and reskilling of over 50% of the workforce in our IT-ITeS industry. Freshers and college students must counter this challenge by undertaking proper training in these areas. The government must also proactively include these courses in more institutions.”

AI is rapidly emerging as an important academic discipline in India. Garain stated, “Universities, colleges, institutions are opening courses in data science, analytics, AI or machine learning as this is the need of the hour. Worldwide, there is a huge shortage for trained manpower for AI jobs. Through these courses, India can fill this gap to a great extent. National bodies like AICTE and UGC are promoting these activities. Large private organisations will need to open AI schools. This will eventually happen.”

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