More than 50 countries have announced national strategies on artificial intelligence (AI), while many others are frenetically planning to do so. AI holds the key for the next phase of economic growth led by technological innovation and no country wants to be left behind in the race.
AI refers to the capability of machines to mimic human-like cognitive functions like learning, thinking and problem-solving. It consists of a suite of technologies such as machine learning, deep learning, speech recognition, etc. These accelerate technology-driven transformation in diverse domains like education, healthcare, industry 4.0, autonomous vehicles, etc. The contribution of AI to military applications is also significant. It has been at the forefront of helping develop autonomous weapons in various developed countries.
Many countries, including the US and EU, feel that leveraging AI would be crucial in determining strategic and geopolitical influence in the future, both at regional and global levels. The United States, China, the European Union, the UK are leading from the front in this rapidly evolving technology. They have already announced their national AI strategies as well. Most of them have been trying to leverage their strengths to reinforce as well as advance their strategies.
Wherein several sectors of such advanced economies have already embraced AI and related disruptive technologies and experimenting in various fields, India is still lagging on this count. A recent study by Oxford Insights indicates that India holds the 40th position out of 172 countries in the Government AI Readiness Index. This is a glaring drop of 23 places in contrast to the 2019 rankings.
Nations like the UK, US, and China are funding their AI initiatives by spending billions. India, on the other hand, is yet to launch a comprehensive and coordinated national programme on AI. Although India currently ranks third in the world concerning the total number of research publications in AI, it needs to catch up quickly by formulating and implementing a well-designed AI national programme with adequate funding to become a global leader in this strategic technological race.
However, India has already started taking baby steps in this sphere. For instance, the government-owned Bharat Petroleum Corporation Limited (BPCL) has launched Urja, a virtual assistant with AI or Natural Language Processing (NLP) capabilities and trained on over 600 use cases. The Privatisation-bound oil and gas corporation has introduced the chatbot to address queries for both B2B and B2C sectors and deliver a seamless self-service customer experience.
India has a dedicated AI portal that is jointly developed by MeitY and NASSCOM and was launched in June 2020. This portal acts as a one-stop-shop for all AI-related developments and initiatives in India.
Analysts anticipate that AI can help India by adding up to $957 billion to its economy by 2035. The opportunity for AI in India is colossal, so is the scope for its implementation. AI and the data analytics sector can create nearly 20 million jobs for the Indian economy by 2025. Hence, it is time for India to be more proactive when it comes to adopting AI technology.