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With the power of AI, India can reimagine delivery of public services

For India the real power of AI lies in its potential to address massive societal challenges that were traditionally considered to be beyond the purview of computing

New Delhi | February 27, 2020 10:09:33 am
AI, Artificial Intelligence, AI in India, AI India, RAISE India, India AI summit, RAISE india summit date For India, AI holds a massive potential to bring about social and economic transformation. The Government of India has announced its ‘Responsible AI for Social Empowerment (rAIse)’ summit in Delhi on April 11 and 12. (Image source: Getty Images)

By Abhishek Singh 

Over the last couple of years, Artificial Intelligence (AI) has changed from a technology with potential to an instrument of national importance across the world. The first demonstration of applications of AI has happened in the consumer space and significant economic value has been created, mainly through targeted advertising by internet giants in the USA and China.

According to a report by PwC, AI could contribute a whopping $15.7 trillion to global GDP by 2030. However, for India, AI is much more than just a piece of this pie.

For India the real power of AI lies in its potential to address massive societal challenges that were traditionally considered to be beyond the purview of computing. For example, India stands to lose $4.58 trillion before 2030 due to non-communicable diseases and mental health conditions. Cardiovascular diseases (accounting for $2.17 trillion) and mental health conditions (accounting for $1.03 trillion), will lead the way in economic loss.

In rural India, approximately 70 percent of households still depend primarily on agriculture for their livelihood with agriculture, which has a shrinking share in GDP. In the transport sector, as per a Government of India report, road accidents led to 17 deaths on roads every hour in the year 2016, outlining the urgent need for smarter infrastructure.

Listen to our weekly tech podcast Our Own Devices: Episode 13 where we talk about Artificial Intelligence

Traditionally such problems required building massive hard infrastructure, which needed significant capital expenditure. Therefore, supply perpetually lagged demand and vast inefficiencies were created. Today advanced research is shining a light towards a path to address such challenges through AI and computing to enable effective interventions that can grossly reduce capital expenditure.

AI, Artificial Intelligence, AI in India, AI India, RAISE India, India AI summit, RAISE india summit date AI, therefore, provides a strategic instrument in the hand of government to address monumental challenges of unprecedented scale. (Image source: Getty Images)

Non-communicable diseases like depression can be treated by achieving a better understanding of the brain and mind using AI and computing. With the rise of wearables, AI can allow individuals much greater control over their health and empower them to make better decisions about their well-being.

In agriculture, AI can help us handle the complexity and uncertainty associated with production, making better sense of problems associated with epidemics, price volatility of raw materials and optimal usage of resources such as water, energy and fertilizers.

It can empower farmers to deploy tailored interventions ranging from predictable crop planning to precision farming. In India’s smart cities, AI algorithms in collision avoidance systems can give an approximate 1.5 second advance notice to drivers to avoid 93% of road accidents.

AI, therefore, provides a strategic instrument in the hand of government to not only address monumental challenges of unprecedented scale, but also gives an opportunity for global leadership by creating foundational technologies and digital infrastructure. India has been a pioneer in bringing the power of technology at a population scale to its 1.3 billion citizens with deployment of Aadhaar-based services, the highest mobile penetration, UPI for money transfers, and the largest medical coverage program in Ayushman Bharat.

Read more: In some companies, artificial intelligence is replacing the boss 

Now, with the power of AI, it can help the world reimagine implementation and delivery of public services in the 21st century.

With the underlying values of social empowerment and inclusion and building upon the data empowerment mindset (Sabka Saath, Sabka Vikaas), India is now embarking on a bold and ambitious journey to bring the power of AI to billions of citizens of this planet and meaningfully improve people’s lives.

All this, while upholding the foundational principles of individual privacy, security and user consent. The first step in this direction was taken when as part of the Union Budget 2020, the Honorable Finance Minister set aside $1.14 billion to invest in artificial intelligence (AI), quantum computing, machine learning (ML), and data analytics.

It is important to mention that AI is not a silver bullet. Tackling these challenges requires a concerted, collaborative effort across all sectors of society – academia, the engineering community, government officials, policy-makers and other stakeholders.

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India is starting this journey with the Government of India announcing the ‘Responsible AI for Social Empowerment (rAIse)’ summit in Delhi on April 11 and 12. This event will bring together top leaders across sectors from around the world who share a common interest in making AI work for the betterment of humanity by utilising it to solve the biggest societal challenges.

This summit will exclusively focus on setting in motion the vision laid down by the government in the National AI strategy, which envisions the application of AI at national scale to become a global role model for data empowerment for citizens.

The Honourable Prime Minister of India has kindly agreed to inaugurate the event and deliver an opening keynote. The rAIse Summit will be the first such major event in India organised in collaboration between the government, industry and academia. The summit will bring together AI luminaries, business leaders, entrepreneurs, scientists, policymakers, academic leaders, venture capital firms, NGOs from across the globe to exchange ideas and build a roadmap for AI adoption in India.

The vision is ambitious and if India is successful, it will reshape the entire way the world thinks about the adoption of AI at a population scale.

Abhishek Singh IAS is the President and CEO,for National e-Governance Division (NeGD), Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (MeitY), Government of India.

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