India hosts one of the most thriving startup ecosystems, with dozens of unicorns using AI-powered tools expanding the scope for an AI strategy for India and the world, especially the Global South.
India is a powerhouse of AI research and innovation poised to become a responsible AI global leader. While the world is debating the harms of AI, several countries have spearheaded developing AI and AI-based technologies. As quoted by Sundar Pichai, “AI is probably the most important thing that humanity has ever worked on”. India hosts one of the most thriving startup ecosystems, with dozens of unicorns using AI-powered tools expanding the scope for an AI strategy for India and the world, especially the Global South.
Where do we stand with “AI for all”?
Unlike other countries, India has not yet implemented an official AI policy but has made some important advancements. In 2020, India released a draft of the National Strategy for Artificial Intelligence anticipated to establish a strong basis for future regulations, development, and adoption of AI in India. There is a task force to make recommendations on ethical, legal, and societal issues related to AI and establish an AI regulatory authority. In February 2021, a National Single Window System was created to obtain necessary business approvals and clearances across governments for AI development and deployment. Recently, the government announced the establishment of three Centres of Excellence focused on outcome-based development of AI skilling and design thinking. While global economies have adopted and deployed their AI policy to become the ultimate AI superpower, we explore what lessons India can draw from other ecosystems in the quest to build an inclusive, empowered, robust and citizen-centric “AI for all” policy.
What lessons can India learn?
A comprehensive data protection law, the “General Data Protection Regulation” (GDPR), applies to all EU member states. As organisations must seek consent from individuals and implement measures to protect their data. India should emphasize data privacy and protection and create similar regulations to protect the rights of its citizens. India can adopt regulations like Canada's Directive on Automated Decision-Making and the United States' Algorithmic Accountability Act to ensure that AI is used fairly and transparently and prevent algorithmic bias. Also, China's New Generation AI Development strategy includes heavy investments in R&D for developing AI sectors such as transportation, healthcare, and finance. India has always strived to do things differently and cost-effectively, remember the Mars orbiter project? India should imply similar efforts for funding AI initiatives. Also, India can learn from Japan's AI Utilization Promotion Act and focus on creating a supportive environment for AI development, especially in terms of education, the creation of AI standards and startup support.Also read: From Web2 to Web3: Two former CEOs bet big with their new startups
How can AI policy help in democratising different sectors?
According to Nasscom, India’s 'AI Skills Penetration Factor' is the highest, i.e., Indian tech talent is three times more likely to possess AI skills among all G20 and OECD countries. It ranks fifth in AI scientific publications. Around 2026, AI-led disruption across sectors could add $500 billion to India’s economy. India is a paradox when it comes to technology as it has leapfrogged in many technology sectors. Hence, some great solutions to India's longstanding problems are emerging today. In 2022, Indian companies ranked first in AI adoption in Asia-Pacific. There are about two thousand AI-focused startups, such as Gnaani, Reverie and Devnagri, primarily working in the areas of conversational AI, NLP, video analytics, disease detection, fraud prevention and deep fakes detection. India has launched a national language translation mission to support NEP 2020 for providing accessibility and opportunity to millions of citizens. Initiatives by MeitY, like Bhashini, AICTE’s Anuvadini and Samantar AI by IIT-Madras, are helping translate educational books-lessons, court orders-judgments into several languages. AI for Bharat is another language corpus for machine translation.
AI-based predictive models are identifying patients at risk of developing chronic diseases such as diabetes, heart disease, and cancer. Adaptive AI-powered learning platforms are helping students with personalised learning experiences, real-time feedback, and understanding complex concepts. AI is addressing environmental challenges by supporting climate modelling, improving resource management, and enabling the development of sustainable technologies. AI tools predict water demand, analyse energy consumption patterns, and optimise waste management systems. Overall, AI has boosted economic growth and competitiveness by enabling innovation, supporting productivity gains, and promoting the development of new industries.
Several countries have adopted different policies to regulate the development and use of Artificial intelligence (AI). India can incorporate key lessons in its “AI for all” framework. For a rapidly growing technology sector, the government must collaborate with industry leaders, researchers, and social organisations to design policies that balance innovation and regulation and promote ethical practices. By doing so, India can harness AI to achieve its socio-economic goals while mitigating the risks associated with emerging technologies.Umesh Rathod is a Policy analyst at the Indian School of Business and a Start-up mentor
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[This article has been reproduced with permission from ISBInsight, the research publication of the Indian School of Business, India]