Finally, Indian government woke-up or rather say formally decided to take note of Artificial Intelligence. A task force constituted by the ministry of Commerce and Industry, Government of India released a 70 page report on Artificial Intelligence in March.
The report has recommended some pertinent points -
- Funding of $180 million over 5 years which would be needed for setting up 6 Centre of Excellence (CoE), sandbox for developers, data center and increasing awareness
- Digital data banks, marketplaces and exchanges to ensure availability of data
- Standards of design, development and deployment of the systems
- Enablers to encourage AI including data sharing, tax and incentives
- Education and re-skilling
- Leveraging international relationship
The task force identified 10 domains/industries which will be in focus from the Indian context.
Report has gone into details to explain the rationale for the selection, challenges and opportunities available for each of these sectors. Like any good government, it has picked sectors which has large scale public benefit.
While India might be still playing the catchup game with other countries in terms of government focus on AI, but that does not mean country is too much behind. Many companies (including public sector) and startups have already made amazing inroads into the technology and best part is that they have done it from Indian context. While mostly the private sector has focussed on the lucrative sectors like finance, healthcare, supply chain, retail, education etc. An initiative like this, brings focus to some really less spoken areas like -
Aid for Differently abled/Accessibility Technology
More than 20 million people in India live with disability (2016 census), but hardly anyone speak or do anything about it, still most of the public places don’t have a ramp. Good to see government take notice in terms of technology integration and surely with decent amount of focus, huge difference can be made to change lives of our disabled friends.
AI based translators which can convert sign language into text or speech can make a huge difference for people with speech disability.
Autonomous car and wheel chairs will give mobility to our blind and differently abled with no dependency from anyone. It would be great to see if Stephen hawking style chair and technology is made available to many of our friends.
According to Defence estimates made in 2012, India spends about $200-$300 million a year to hold Siachen under its control. With over $0.5 million spend just on Siachen Glacier everyday, to secure one section of border, just imagine the cost to protect the world’s one of the most dangerous border. Doing it with traditional approaches not only increase the costs and it increases risks for the armed forces. A disruptive technology like AI, can greatly help to increase the capabilities and bring back normalcy to many of our soldiers struggling in those tough conditions.
AI based cameras, unmanned vehicles, radars and surveillance will not only work 24*7 and importantly predict, warn and alert of any imminent dangers.
Actions are already in motion, government has incorporated a high-powered task force for the project that will be headed by N Chandrasekaran, the chairman of Tata Sons Group. Chandrasekaran is designing a framework and specifics that will introduce a partnership model between the armed forces and the private sector.
With pollution, drought, floods, receding rivers and forests, taking huge toll on the environment and threatening the entire eco system, it is high time the focus is given beyond just setting up the Ganga rejuvenation ministry or environment ministry. On the clean Ganga website lot of tasks are created with different buzzwords — ‘Ganga Vichar Manch’, ‘Ganga Manthan’, ‘Namami Ganga’, but action on the ground is very limited. Including technology in these frameworks will do a great service to a very credible initiative.
By combining satellite imagery, sensors, AL and ML, government can pinpoint the sources of pollutants for rivers or even tracking their trajectory, the factories contributing maximum to air pollution or methane leaks, look at impacts after major disasters, depleting forest cover or even tracking tiger population.
AI and ML is a revolutionary technology and definitely can make lot of difference to society if implemented with passion, meticulous approach and empathy. Hope this report by the experts, provides the much needed impetus to the journey.