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 US and China. According to a report by PwC, AI could contribute a whopping $15.7 trillion to global GDP by 20301. However, for India, AI is much more than just a piece of this pie.
For India, the real power of AI lies in its transformative 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% of households still depend primarily on agriculture for their livelihood, with agriculture having 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.
Traditionally such problems require building massive hard infrastructure, which needs 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.
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 fertilisers. 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 seconds advance notice to drivers to avoid 93% of road accidents.
AI, therefore, provides a strategic instrument in the hand of government to address monumental challenges of unprecedented scale, and an opportunity for global leadership by creating foundational technologies and digital infrastructure. India has been a pioneer in bringing power of technology at a population scale of 1.3 billion citizens with deployment of Aadhaar based services, highest mobile penetration, UPI and largest medical coverage programme in Ayushman Bharat. 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 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.
India is kick 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 a national scale to become a global role model for data empowerment for citizens.
The 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.
The writer is President & CEO, National e-Governance Division, MeitY. Views are personal