Data is the new natural resource that can empower every citizen in a country like India, Microsoft’s India-born CEO Satya Nadella said on Monday during a discussion on the digital world, cloud computing and artificial intelligence. There is need for “recognising that data is the new natural resource instead of looking at it as being unevenly spread” for empowering every citizen of India, Nadella said in a dialogue with Infosys co-founder Nandan Nilekani.
In India, several state governments are using data resources and computing power for governance, Nadella said.
The government of Andhra Pradesh is using cloud services to track high school dropouts in order to build interventions while ICRISAT is using machine learning to improve the yield of farmers, he said. “I was looking at the big consumers of the public cloud (computing) and one thing that came up was the Election Commission in Tamil Nadu,’’ Nadella said with reference to the usage of CCTV cameras in Tamil Nadu at election booths in 2016.
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Nadella said that the broad technology areas that he is currently excited about is cloud computing, artificial intelligence and augmented reality. Much of the entrepreneurial energy in India is around cloud computing, he said. What has been seen so far in terms of artificial intelligence is statistical machine learning by using the power of data and real AI is still in the future, Nadella said.
“In Punjab, I believe we took all the call centre data … We analysed the speech so that the government can get a better handle on what are the issues that can be automated and what needs human services. That is an application of AI,’’ Nadella said.
“Given the pace that we are going at I don’t think we should go around and claim that something like artificial intelligence is just around the corner. I think we have the right ladder this time. The real challenge would be to get human level understanding of language which still does not exist. We are not even close to it. We have a few parlor tricks but not anything that says we can actually have the ability to write like Rabindranath Tagore any time soon,’’ Nadella said.
While taking steps to an AI future “we have to be mindful of the impact of AI on jobs,’’ he added. People would have to be skilled to adapt to changes in jobs that will come with AI, he said.
Nilekani said India would be data rich before it becomes economically rich. “The moment somebody has a smart phone the whole digital trail starts. If the person who is data rich can then leverage his data then that’s where the game is. Data should be a source of individual empowerment,’’ Nilekani said. If technology is used to make lives better then it will be accepted, he said.