How India can be as AI-ready as the US

A common factor in 40% of the countries included in the rankings since 2017 is an AI strategy or its ongoing drafting.

According to recent research by London-based firm Oxford Insights, the US federal government is the best prepared of 160 nations to deploy AI in public services. The report, Government AI Readiness, rates the countries on 42 parameters across ten dimensions, including software spending, investment in emerging technologies, investment promotion, and government efficiency. This is measured against three pillars; the government, the technology sector and the data and infrastructure pillar. The research aims to answer, “how ready is a given government to implement AI in the delivery of public services to their citizens?”

The USA topped this list, with Singapore coming in second, followed by the United Kingdom, Finland, and the Netherlands in the top five. Meanwhile, South Asia was one of the two lowest-ranked regions in the list, along with Sub-Saharan Africa. India ranks 51 on that list with an overall score of 56.11. Analytics India Magazine has analysed the report to understand what the leading countries did right to be ready for AI in the public space and what India can learn from them. 

Mature technology sector for innovation

The USA topped, given the maturity of its technology sector. The sector is so huge that it encourages a huge majority of the global AI research and commercial AI projects, making it the home to the most number of technology unicorns and highly valued public technology firms. Within the 42 parameters, the US ranked high on computer software spending and company investment in emerging technologies, identifying the country in the mature stage of AI development. The report states this ensures AI readiness in the country because the suppliers will help the government, and the workforce will have provision to develop skills needed for AI employment. Similarly, the Nordic countries scored well given their combination of institutional strength with business environments allows for innovation. “For example, Sweden scores highly in the technology sector pillar because of its strong entrepreneurial culture, its comparatively high R&D spending, and the willingness of its businesses to invest in emerging technologies,” the report explains. 

Skilled workforce 

The report also found East Asian countries making up one-quarter of the top 20 ranked countries. This is because of the region’s skilled workforce, research advancements and technological infrastructure to enable competitive research. Singapore, South Korea, Japan, China, and Taiwan have scored high in the variables of human capital and infrastructure dimensions, given their research and computing power. Both China and Singapore have proved outstanding research capacities with citation numbers and implementations by industry players. For instance, Alibaba, Dyson, DataRobot, Salesforce have opened overseas AI research centres in Singapore

AI Governance strategies 

The key to Singapore’s ranking was the institutional strength and the government’s digital capacity, taking it to the top in the government pillar. However, the promotion of emerging technologies and ICT use by the government and their efficiency has managed to digitise the public service. Additionally, the country’s Digital Government Blueprint that was updated in 2020 emphasised the importance of AI with provocative techniques. 

A common factor in 40% of the countries included in the rankings since 2017 is an AI strategy or its ongoing drafting. The national AI strategy is accompanied by government action to ensure safe technology implementation in public and private sectors with cybersecurity and data protection tools. Additionally, this encourages the private sector to grow and government actions to ensure the government can leverage safe and efficient private services to advance the public sector. Despite their limited size and population, countries like Finland, Sweden, Germany, France, Denmark, and Norway have done extremely well in the report, given the government’s internal capabilities to run AI projects. Additionally, their policymaking and integrity of delivering AI in the public sector allow for safe innovation. 

Countries with governments at a mature and later stage in AI readiness take a detailed and serious approach to AI strategies. For instance, the EU’s AI Act for 2021 or The USA’s AI Bill of Rights ensures human privacy and freedom in the space of artificial intelligence. In addition, horizontal frameworks such as the EU’s AI act ensure safe development and deployment of AI in the regions while encouraging innovation. 

The study found that 72.5% of countries included in index rankings had data protection legislation, which was a crucial indicator to safely assess the government’s capability to integrate AI into public and private sectors. India’s Personal Data Protection Bill has been under controversy in the parliament since 2019. The report identifies India to have passed the critical first stage of developing and releasing a national AI strategy for better adoption. They note India has a clearly defined AI strategy with funded programmes and initiatives targeting data, technology and human capital, pointing to our readiness for AI. The pandemic has all but furthered digital transformation in India. The personal data protection bill as well has been subjected to countless criticism and scrutiny while tagged to be bad for businesses and start-ups. The country, however, is in severe need of some regulation to ensure the aggressively growing AI sector is advancing with safety and user privacy. 

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Avi Gopani
Avi Gopani is a technology journalist that seeks to analyse industry trends and developments from an interdisciplinary perspective at Analytics India Magazine. Her articles chronicle cultural, political and social stories that are curated with a focus on the evolving technologies of artificial intelligence and data analytics.

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