Taj Mahal, Agra, India — photo by @jamesr

India’s Artificial Intelligence Strategy and the Climate Crisis

How India Planning to Tackle the Climate Crisis in their AI Strategy?

I found India’s AI Strategy to be thorough dealing with a wide variety of different topics. The discussion paper National Strategy for Artificial Intelligence was released in June 2018. Jessica Newman in her analysis claims that the AI Strategy for India is quite extensive compared to others (such as the UK), covering a wide variety of topics. I am not saying this is bad or good, however I was interested to see how much climate concerns are present in the strategy.

In the Indian strategy ‘climate’ is mentioned six times. Environment is mentioned in a different context relating more to people. However sustainability is mentioned quite a few times too.

Agriculture

“As global climate becomes more vulnerable and unpredictable, dependence on unsustainable and resource intensive agriculture will only heighten the risks of food scarcity and agricultural distress […] The Indian agriculture sector is vulnerable to climate change due to being rain dependent. Varying weather patterns such as increase in temperature, changes in precipitation levels, and ground water density, can affect farmers especially in the rainfed areas of the country. AI can be used to predict advisories for sowing, pest control, input control can help in ensuring increased income and providing stability for the agricultural community.”

Not too long ago in 2017 more than 55% of Indians made a living from farming. Therefore it is not strange to see the focus on agriculture being front and center of the report.

Research Focus on Climate Change

“The research, focused on IT services and social good, will aim to provide powerful AI insights and recommendations for improved productivity. It also includes software analytics — building, testing, managing and modernisation of applications, solving real-life social issues such as malnutrition, human trafficking and climate change through prediction and recommendation models using AI.”

In the section describing research climate change is mentioned early on, although hidden in a list of other priorities.

Solar Power

“India is already playing a leading role in climate leadership, with Hon’ble Prime Minister Narendra Modi vowing to go “above and beyond” India’s commitment on Paris Agreement on climate change. Similarly, India has been a pioneer in a sustained push for clean energy revolution by leading the International Solar Alliance, and setting an ambitious target of 100GW of installed solar energy capacity by 2022. With 20GW of installed solar capacity, India is well and truly on its way to achieving this target.”

India has made a goal to install large amounts of solar power in the country to become more renewable, and this is a goal worth striving for.

Government Data Sharing

“Government data sharing: Government of India has large amounts of data lying in silos across ministries. The government can launch a mission of making all these data available for public good after undertaking proper privacy checks. For example — climate data, non-strategic remote sensing data, regional language speech (from All India Radio), soil health data etc.”

There are government sharing initiatives popping up in different locations, and it could be useful to follow this process. If the government shares data responsible there can be huge benefits to society.

India as a Test-Bed for Further Scaling

“Solving for India, given the complexity and multi-dimensional aspects of most of our economic and societal challenges, can easily be extended to the rest of the emerging and developing economies. An integral part of India’s strategy for AI involves tackling common and complex global challenges that can be solved through technology intervention, and India’s scale and opportunity landscape provides the ideal test-bed to ensure sustainable and scalable solutions.”

Piloting solutions in India and taking them to an international market seems a clear goal in this context.

Transportation

“Need for sustainable transportation: The recent initiative of the Government of India for announcing development of 100 Smart Cities is aimed at addressing this anomaly and catalyse smart strategies for urban planning which promote sustainable land use design and multimodal integration […] While new initiatives could take time to show realisable impact, the existing issues in urban mobility related to congestion, efficient traffic flow, movement of goods etc. can indeed be solved using AI technology.”

When we used AI-technology to solve problems it is likely to be causing new problems, however integrating technologies in society more seamlessly is a goal mentioned in different contexts.

Education

“The education sector needs to be re-aligned in order to effectively harness the potential of AI in a sustainable manner. In primary and secondary schools, there is a need for transition to skill based education in subjects relevant to AI. Often criticised for being overly knowledge intensive, Indian education is in urgent need of transition particularly in subjects relevant to STEM, or computer based education. As jobs based on technology become prominent, so will the need to develop applied skills in a continuously changing environment.”

AI in education plattforms is an interesting proposition.

Sustainable Business Models Aggregating Data

“Today, incumbents continue to enjoy an oligopoly in building sustainable business models in AI for two main reasons: (a) they can successfully buy data in the informal market setting due to availability of resources and reach to negotiate one-time contracts continually, and (b) they have specialised departments to work on different facets of the development value chain.”

This is a conversation of informal versus formal data. It seems informal data is relatively easy to get hold of in India, however as otherwise good data quality is needed so I can see this being an issue.

Responsible AI Development

Lastly this slide makes some good points regarding which areas we could invest effort into addressing the climate crisis.

This is #500daysofAI and you are reading article 158. I write one new article about or related to artificial intelligence every day for 500 days.

AI Policy and Ethics at www.nora.ai. Student at University of Copenhagen MSc in Social Data Science. All views are my own. twitter.com/AlexMoltzau