Written by Venkatesh Krishnamoorthy
Artificial intelligence (AI) offers incredible potential to improve lives and helps solve intractable problems in India and around the world. AI systems augment human intelligence by analyzing data to find connections that improve the quality and accuracy of human decision-making. India stands poised to benefit from harnessing these new digital technologies and platforms.
AI is already shaping the world around us, making our devices smarter, our businesses more competitive, and the delivery of government services more efficient. There are countless examples from a cross-section of industries that illustrate the benefits of AI technologies including in healthcare, financial services, e-commerce, government services, education, and cybersecurity. In India, one such example is the team of deep learning and machine intelligence experts at Siemens Corporate Technology, who are developing a traffic management solution that fully automates traffic control and monitoring. A prototype is currently being tested at the Electronic City Campus in Bengaluru in collaboration with the Electronics City Township Authority (ELCITA).
AI is also turning the visual world into an audible experience for people with visual impairments. Microsoft’s Seeing AI app helps visually impaired people recognize objects, people, and text via a phone or tablet camera which describes what it recognizes to the user, ultimately enabling increased independence in their lives.
India is taking a leadership role in leveraging ‘AI for greater good’ which focuses on social development and inclusive growth. For example, the National Institute of Transforming India (NITI Aayog) and IBM have partnered to develop a crop yield prediction model using AI to provide real-time recommendations to farmers. The project is being implemented in 10 districts across seven states in the country. While AI in agriculture is in its early stages, India’s manufacturing sector is already ahead of most countries in implementing AI. As per BCG’s 2018 study, India ranks third out of the 12 countries included in the report, with 19 per cent of companies in the manufacturing sector already using AI to a significant extent. Beyond improving the livelihoods of people in India, AI is also expected to double India’s rate of innovation by 2021, according to a research study by IDC Asia Pacific.
NITI Aayog recognizes the importance of AI and the need to develop an enabling policy framework to improve the lives of Indian citizens. NITI Aayog’s overall objective is to use AI for the benefit of all and agrees that implementing too many rules will stifle innovation and adoption.
With all the positive impact AI has to offer, it is of utmost importance for the Government of India to establish sound data policies to ensure that the benefits can be materialized by society. Achieving meaningful results will depend on India’s ability to create an environment that fosters the development of AI and builds trust and confidence in the technology. AI systems are only as strong as the quantity and quality of the data that is available to them for training; if data cannot be accessed and shared, then AI will suffer. This means that the government has a critical role to play in the future of India’s AI landscape. In order for AI to thrive, BSA | The Software Alliance has identified policy priorities to facilitate the development of this impactful emerging technology:
Data is important at every stage of the AI life cycle. From the development of predictive models to the deployment and use of AI systems. These systems use data sets that often originates from dispersed geographical sources. Hence, it is imperative that data can move freely across borders and help sustain global commerce, improve health and safety, promote social good, and enable the technologies of the future.
Governments collect and generate vast quantities of data, at both the local and national level that can be harnessed in the development of AI systems. Sound data policies should ensure that any non-sensitive government-generated data asset is made freely available to the public as a resource to improve services and lower prices.
Policies implemented by governments should boost the development of AI services and facilitate the business-to-business exchange of data. This can be accomplished by:
– Ensuring companies can enter enforceable contracts that create data sharing arrangements;
– Avoiding the creation of new rights in business data that could add unnecessary transaction costs; and
– Allowing companies to freely perform data analytics, including text and data mining, on any content to which they have lawful access.
AI is a burgeoning field with multiple small and medium-sized AI providers in fierce competition, as a result pushing the creation of new services. Policymakers should create competition frameworks that are flexible enough to address technological innovations. Creating and structuring data sets are resource intensive, thus AI-specific competition rules such as compulsory licensing of data sets, or regulatory prohibitions on maintaining the exclusive benefits of that investment will deter the investment and impede the development of AI.
India has a tremendous opportunity to be a global garage for emerging technologies like AI. To utilize this opportunity, India should play a global leadership role in AI policymaking. With India’s current focus on the development of a comprehensive personal data protection policy, it is critical that the government develop policies that are consistent with international best practices. AI policies must promote cross-border data flows and exclude regressive requirements like data localisation. Only then would India be able to leverage the benefits of AI and march towards a USD 1 trillion digital economy by 2025.
(The writer is the Country Manager, BSA | The Software Alliance.)