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India’s Artificial Intelligence Strategy Going Into 2020

The Growing Industry for AI in India

India released a strategy called AI for All in June 2018 as a form of discussion paper. It is unknown to me at the time whether this resulted in the actual strategy. The artificial intelligence (AI) and analytics industry in India is presently estimated to be $415 million annually in revenues in 2019, up from $230 million in 2018, according to a report by Analytics India Magazine. Straight off the bat it does not seem like India have any public wide-ranging initiatives to help the public understand artificial intelligence (such as the Elements of AI course by Finland).

NITI Aayog paper

The AI Strategy in India is called the NITI Aayog paper, why is that?

The NITI Aayog is a policy think tank of the Government of India, established with the aim to achieve sustainable development goals with cooperative federalism by fostering the involvement of State Governments of India in the economic policy-making process using a bottom-up approach.

Aayog is Hindi for Policy Commission.

NITI Aayog CEO Amitabh Kant had before focused on that AI’s application to various ventures could push India’s year-on-year (YoY) development rate by 1.3%. NITI Aayog wants to put resources into establishing:

  • Five centres of research excellence,
  • 20 institutional units for transformational AI
  • The cloud platform called AIRAWAT.

NITI Aayog got approval from the finance ministry’s expenditure finance committee (EFC) for a budget expenditure of Rs 7,000 crore (approximately US$ 978'603'500).

These are the three clear recommendations so far, however not everyone is satisfied by the outlined strategy.

An expert comment from Chatham house commented in February 2019 that:

“In the absence of thinking about both technical feasibility and social viability, there is a strong risk that AI-based technology gains are likely to benefit only a select few Indians. In this context, the ‘AI for All’ narrative obscures rather than answers many of the fundamental challenges that India faces.”

The NITI Aayog paper identifies five focus areas where AI development could enable both growth and greater inclusion:

  1. Healthcare,
  2. Agriculture,
  3. Education,
  4. Urban-/smart-city infrastructure,
  5. Transportation and mobility.

The paper also discusses five barriers to be addressed:

  1. Lack of research expertise,
  2. Absence of enabling data ecosystems,
  3. High resource cost and low awareness for adoption,
  4. Lack of regulations around privacy and security,
  5. Absence of a collaborative approach to adoption and applications.

According to the report, “#AIforAll will focus on harnessing collaborations and partnerships, and aspires to ensure prosperity for all. Thus, #AIforAll means technology leadership in AI for achieving the greater good.

Although this paper was meant to start a conversation for what will be an evolving National Strategy for Artificial Intelligence it does not have any apparent follow-up papers readily available online.

Accoring to an article from late 2019 there seems to have been talks of the The Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology in India (MeitY) having sent a different (Rs 400 crore) proposition to the EFC to create a national AI program.

With the grant funds, MeitY wants to build a national AI portal, creating applications and actualising AI in the zones of health and training. In the past, during a meeting between ministers held in August, MeitY authorities had raised worries over the convergence between the AI usage projects of NITI Aayog and MeitY. They even requested that the finance ministry to clarify the functions.

The Analytics India Magazine mentions that the creation of a new committee is expected to make India’s AI policy more organised and establish the precise functions of government agencies.

Otherwise I did mention in a previous article that India’s strategy has a more explicit focus on nature, environment and climate than other AI strategies, and I find it commendable.

This is #500daysofAI and you are reading article 242. I am writing one new article about or related to artificial intelligence every day for 500 days. My current focus for 100 days 200–300 is national and international strategies for artificial intelligence.



AI Policy and Ethics at Student at University of Copenhagen MSc in Social Data Science. All views are my own.

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