OpEd – The Dream of being an AI Powerhouse

OpEd - The Dream of being an AI PowerHouse

Issue :-

  • In a recent discussion paper, NITI Aayog has chalked out an ambitious strategy for India to become an artificial intelligence (AI) powerhouse.

What is AI & How AI is present in India ?

AI is the use of computers to make decisions that are normally made by humans. Many forms of AI surround Indians already, including chatbots on retail websites and programs that flag fraudulent bank activity.

NITI Aayog Strategy on AI :-

  • NITI Aayog envisions AI solutions for India especially in five key sectors –
    ♣ Agriculture
    ♣ Healthcare
    ♣ Education
    ♣ Smart Cities Infrastructure
    ♣ Transport.
  • In agriculture, For example :- Machines will provide information to farmers on the quality of soil, when to sow, where to spray herbicide, and when to expect pest infestations. It’s an idea with great potential & If computers help agricultural universities advise farmers on best practices, India could see a farming revolution.

However, there are formidable obstacles. AI start-ups already offer some solutions, but the challenge lies in scaling these to cover the entire value chain, as NITI Aayog envisions.

AI Challenges :-

Lack of Data :-

  • Machine learning, the set of technologies used to create AI, is a data-eater.
  • It takes reams of historical data as input, identifies the relationships among data elements, and makes predictions.
  • More sophisticated forms of machine learning, like “deep learning”, attempt to mimic the human brain. And even though they promise greater accuracy, they also need more data than what is required by traditional machine learning.
  • Unfortunately, India has sparse data in sectors like agriculture, and this is already hampering AI-based businesses today.

Domain knowledge :-

  • Another problem for AI firms today is finding the right people.
  • NITI Aayog’s report has bleak news: only about 50 Indian scientists carry out “serious research” and they are concentrated in elite institutions such as the Indian Institutes of Technology and the Indian Institutes of Science. Meanwhile, only about 4% of AI professionals have worked in emerging technologies like deep learning.
  • A survey of LinkedIn found 386 out of the 22,000 people with PhDs in AI across the world to be Indians.

Way Forward :- To become AI Powerhouse as NITI Aayog Envisions much needs to change immediately :-

  • First, if the government is serious about AI solutions powering agriculture or healthcare, it must collect and digitise data better under its existing programs.
  • Second, to close the skill gap, NITI Aayog suggests setting up a network of basic and applied AI research institutes. But if these institutes are to fulfil their mandate, they must collaborate closely with agricultural universities, medical colleges and infrastructure planners. The NITI Aayog report talks about collaboration but unless collaboration is the basis for the new crop of institutes, these institutes won’t make a difference, experts say.
  • Third, NITI Aayog’s ambitious road map does not mention deadlines or funding. Without these, it lacks accountability. The government must make haste and specify its commitments on these fronts.

Leave a Reply