Here is Why We are Excited About India’s National Strategy for Artificial Intelligence

 In Our Thinking

The finance ministry, in February 2018, cleared National Institution for Transforming India (NITI) Aayog’s Rs 7,000-crore plan.

The funding will support a national Artificial Intelligence (AI) program. This program will include the identification of certain projects as well as initiatives, in which the government is going to implement AI technology. This announcement was based on the launch of a Task Force on Artificial Intelligence for India’s Economic Transformation by the Commerce and Industry Department of the Government of India in 2017.

Before we proceed ahead, here’s a brief about AI in India –

  • The AI industry is currently valued at $230 Million in revenue approximately.
  • There are tremendous opportunities and substantial economic impact of AI, which can boost India’s annual growth rate by 1.3% by 2035. This roughly translates to the addition of approximately one trillion USD to India’s economy.
  • There are about 40,000 AI professionals in India, with Bengaluru being one of the leading AI hubs in the country.
  • Over 1000 firms in India claim to work on AI in some form.
  • The Central Board of Secondary Education (CBSE) has approved the implementation of AI as a subject for students in classes 8,9 and 10.

While these have set things in motion, it is the national strategy for AI that has everyone hooked. The NITI Aayog has carefully evaluated several sectors that are going to be impacted by AI.

In no particular order, these are:

AI in Healthcare

Healthcare in India is one of the most crucial sectors in the country, which is expected to grow to USD 280 billion by 2020. The challenges in this sector include accessibility, quality, and affordability for the           majority of the population.

So, what is being done in this direction?

The Union Health Ministry is working towards creating an effective roadmap of public healthcare in the country by addressing various gaps. It is realizing the economic impact of AI and prioritizing the building of AI technology capabilities. For instance, one of the initiatives that the central government has undertaken includes – an Imaging Biobank for Cancer.

Through this initiative, the NITI Aayog, along with the Department of Biotechnology, can realize the goal of building an extensive database of cancer-related radiology and pathology images. This database will be inclusive of over 20,000 profiles of cancer patients. This can be effective in the treatment of the disease at a lower cost by enhancing the decision-support.

Another application of AI in healthcare is that of Diabetic Retinopathy. NITI Aayog is already working with tech-biggie Microsoft and Forus Health for rolling out a technology that can lead to early detection of the disease.

All in all, it will help the country progress towards more proactive healthcare services.

AI in Agriculture

Back in February 2016, Hon’ble PM Shri. Narendra Modi launched the Prime Minister’s Crop Insurance Scheme or Pradhan Mantri Fasal Bima Yojana. This scheme covered various long-standing issues of the farmers, including calamities, loss of crops, germination risks, and so on. Several agencies were roped in for the pilot projects using AI.

Sample this, NITI Aayog and IBM have partnered to bring forth a crop yield production model using AI. This will be used to offer real-time advisory to the farmers. The predictive analysis will generate insights which can enhance soil yield, crop productivity, and also offer early warnings from remote sensing, weather prediction, crop phenology, etc. The farmers are all set to benefit from accurate advice.

The strategy here is to use AI for solutions that will involve projects from several agricultural, technology-based startups.

AI in Education

Education is undeniably the most important sector in India. The country, at present, faces challenges that include low-retention rates in rural schools as well as poor learning outcomes. To rectify this, India needs to leverage AI tools to overcome these issues. These can be in terms of interactive tutoring systems and adaptive learning tools that can customize learning for the students.

For this purpose, the IITs are partnering with MHRD for democratizing education with the IIT -PAL initiative. The aim is to create an AI-powered education sector, which will cater to the students in smaller cities and towns. Another case in point is that of a hackathon that was conducted by the NITI Aayog, which featured ReadEx, an Android application that generates questions in real-time using NLP (Natural Language Processing), creates flashcards, and offers content recommendations.

Also, the AP government has teamed up with Microsoft to predict the number of dropouts in the state based on ML and analytics. Based on the reports, they can take measures such as conducting programs and counseling sessions to bring down the overall drop out rate.

AI for Smart Cities and Infrastructure

Let’s face it. The urban population is growing by leaps and bounds, and in the coming decades, the number will be exponentially high. According to data by the UN, the world population will reach up to a limit of 9.7 billion by the end of 2050.

Therefore, when there is a surge in unplanned urbanization as well as issues like congestion, over pollution, and sub-par living standards, then it is going to create a major issue for the citizens in the future.

AI can be handy in urban planning, efficient utility distribution, enhanced delivery of services, and help with many more solutions for the smart city and infrastructure woes.

The Government of India is on a mission to set up several Smart Cities Pan India to drive better quality of life and economic growth. For this, 99 cities have been selected with the investment of INR 2.04 lakh crores. The strategy to be implemented in these cities includes the city extension, city renewal, city improvement, and also, covering the cities with smart solutions. One of the key initiatives for this purpose is the Atal Mission for Rejuvenation and Urban Transformation.

AI plays a major role here by helping with predictive intelligence and augments the features of smart cities. These features can be – crowd management, smart parks, public facilities, and smart homes.

AI in Smart Mobility and Transportation

India is going a tremendous change when it comes to mobility and transportation. A study by NITI Aayog, in collaboration with Rocky Mountain Institute, states that the country can save up to 64% of the anticipated energy needs for road-based passenger transport as well as 37% of the carbon emissions in 2030, with a shared, connected and electric powered mobility system.

A step in this direction is already being taken with the introduction of EVs, which can save the country $57 billion in energy costs annually. Additionally, some of the key smart mobility projects proposed by 20 smart cities in India are already underway.

Likewise, even AI can help address the issues of mobility and transportation in the country. Think of greenfield infrastructure, intelligent transportation, shared mobility, community-based parking, and so on. Most of the large investments in AI have been in the field of autonomous vehicles. The next big thing coming from the government is definitely AI for the railways, which can help prevent train accidents through situational intelligence (with real-time operational data). Also, the Ministry of Railways has decided to utilize AI for remote-condition monitoring using sensors. Overall, AI, when implemented rightly, can solve issues in several challenging areas.

AI is the Future

AI, as a technology, is all slated to disrupt India’s future. With a focus on these core areas, NITI Aayog’s strategy is going to open up several avenues of growth, notwithstanding the challenges, which can be solved gradually with technological advances.

The push will transform the cities and then, the country, making it catch up with other nations who have been there and done that.

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