Here's why India needs to democratise computing with zettascale

The world is on the brink of a data-led revolution. It is imperative for India to invest in zettascale compute infrastructure for the next stage of development of India’s technology leadership journey

Nivruti Rai
Updated: Aug 5, 2021 04:17:48 PM UTC
Image: Shutterstock

Zettascale computing (computational power that can calculate 10 floating point operations per second) can help deliver usable insights from data in milliseconds. As India works to become self-reliant across key sectors and drivers of economic growth, it must also focus on achieving self-reliant zettascale compute. If the previous two decades were about democratising technology to ensure people’s access to resources and information, the coming ones are going to be about democratising computing power that can enrich our lives in more ways than we can imagine.

Democratising compute power for inclusive development
Data-centric technologies like Artificial Intelligence (AI), Cloud and 5G hold the key to addressing some of the biggest human-centric needs we have in the country today. Solving these challenges at the population scale requires computing capabilities far exceeding what we have today. This is where zettascale computing holds immense potential for India. For example, the computational power required to train large AI models is increasing seven times faster than ever before. As a result, India needs to scale up its data centre infrastructure significantly.

We are already seeing some interesting use cases emerging such as the use of AI to detect breast cancer much earlier than traditional screening methods. The Indian government is exploring AI-based solutions for environmental conservation efforts, traffic management, and more. From faster healthcare diagnoses and better outcomes to smart manufacturing, intelligent retail to universal education, the age of AI holds the key to both economic growth acceleration and sustainable inclusive development. Access to advanced computing infrastructure can also equip our scientific community to build solutions in areas such as weather forecasting, genome sequencing, and drug discovery.

The geographical scale and socio-economic complexity of the subcontinent require solutions to be deployed at scale to drive real transformation and progress at the grassroots. The power to leverage this information must be put in the hands of the end-user if it is to be effective. For example, instead of providing generic forecasts and recommendations, solutions that leverage zettascale computing would enable a farmer to make precise decisions based on real-time intelligence of local conditions such as weather, soil, water usage, crop type, etc. Zettascale computing holds the key to this new era of inclusive progress, fueled by equitable access to information for all. This tremendous computing power must be enabled across the country through the setup of secure and scalable infrastructure to be truly effective.

Building a supercomputing highway
The good news is we are now seeing some concerted and collaborative effort between industry, government, and academia to achieve the supercomputing self-reliance goal. In addition to ramping up the optical fibre program, the Ministry of Electronics & Information Technology is working on a new data centre policy that aims to open investments in localised data centre infrastructure. India is expected to add at least 28 hyperscale data centres over the next three years.

The biggest advantage for the country on this zettascale computing roadmap is our deep and diverse talent pool. We are home to about 8 percent of the world’s AI talent, and this is estimated to be growing many times faster than the rest of the world. Coupled with our vibrant tech ecosystem of R&D centres and deep tech startups, we have the expertise, experience and will to fully capitalise on the zettascale computing opportunity.

The world is on the brink of a data-led revolution. This holds tremendous possibilities for a data-rich country like India as it has the opportunity to lead the world in AI innovation for population scale challenges. It’s imperative for us to invest in zettascale compute infrastructure for the next stage of development of India’s technology leadership journey. Compute power must be considered a necessity similar to electricity or water and harnessing the power of zettascale computing is critical to fueling our collective progress as a nation.

The writer is a Country Head of Intel India and VP, Intel Foundry Services.

The thoughts and opinions shared here are of the author.

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