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Why India is Miles Away from Unlocking AI’s Value

A recent Nasscom report, jointly published by the Indian Council for Research on International Economic Relations (ICRIER), estimates that a substantial increase in artificial intelligence (AI) investment by Indian firms can result in a 2.5% increase in India’s GDP in the immediate term. However, the current rate of growth in AI investments is unlikely to increase the levels of AI intensity adequately, it said. 

There is no doubt that India is gradually adopting AI into its system. Even before the world started grappling with COVID-19, the public and private sectors in India were utilizing AI tools to address developmental challenges in various sectors such as agriculture, healthcare, education and BSFI, to name a few. Some of the recent initiatives of the government like the Aarogya Setu app or the MyGov application also aimed at using AI to make world class products. However, the country is still miles away from unlocking the true value of AI in both the government and the private sector.

Experts believe there are myriad issues that need to be addressed. At present India lags behind the top five geographies for private sector investment in AI. The US is far ahead, with investments worth $18 billion, followed by Europe ($2.6 billion) and Israel ($1.8 billion). Above all, China accounted for a greater share of global private-sector funding than the US.

While large companies can afford to invest in R&D, only a few are venturing into it, being risk averse. The start-ups on the other hand, don’t have the money to invest in developing AI and are facing capacity issues. India also needs to work towards improving its infrastructure and allow for an environment that supports the growth of new technology.

Most vital is the need for the government and the private sectors to work hand-in-hand, particularly on the R&D aspects of AI. As Sanjay Gupta, Country Head & VP, Google India, says that with close collaboration between the private and public sector, and by focusing on collective expertise and energies on the most pressing problems of today, we will go a long way towards achieving the vision of a socially empowered, inclusive, and digitally transformed India, where AI has a big role to play.

The need of the hour for the government is to encourage an AI program that could increase AI investments at rates higher than the current rates of adoption. For example, the Nasscom report highlights some policy measures required to support AI’s wider adoption in India in five key areas, including: 

(1) Identifying a nodal agency for the development and diffusion of AI

(2) Building collaborative frameworks for engagement between governments, Industry and academia

(3) Building an all-encompassing data strategy for India

(4) Addressing India’s skill gap in AI and 

(5) Promoting the development of AI safety standards. 

Dr. Rohini Srivathsa, National Technology Officer, Microsoft India, agrees that of the number of challenges to unlock the full potential of AI, the key is an organization’s investment in its human capital.

She believes, to succeed in the AI race, India needs to substantially improve its AI readiness. Policy makers and business leaders should make AI a core part of their strategy and develop a learning agility culture. Investment in this transformative technology has to be continuous for the long-term success. 

“There is an urgent need for talents and tools to develop, deploy and monitor AI models, along with the availability of a robust data estate with the adequate governance,” adds Ranganath Sadasiva, Director, Enterprise at IDC.

In the current scenario, researchers believe that if government and the private sector address these challenges head on, AI can have huge implications on the Indian economy, making the country one of the most lucrative destinations in the world.

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Sohini Bagchi
Sohini Bagchi is Editor at CXOToday, a published author and a storyteller. She can be reached at sohini.bagchi@trivone.com