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At the B20 Summit last week, IBM CEO, Arvind Krishna asked Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman for advice and encouragement for multinational companies who wish to have a strong presence in India and from India to serve the world.
Taking a dig, Sitharaman added that everyone knows that AatmaNirbhar is already in progress, and “IBM is probably outside of that realm.”
While IBM might be waiting for favourable policies or tax slabs to invest heavily in AI research and development in the country, it has been doing its bit to upskill and foster growth at the grassroots level, upskilling children of the country.
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Three years ago, CBSE, in partnership with IBM, introduced an AI curriculum for high school students in Grades XI & XII in 2020. This initiative is part of CBSE’s SEWA program and has been implemented in about 200 schools across 13 Indian states, including Karnataka, Tamil Nadu, Uttar Pradesh and others.
The curriculum covers AI basics, history, and applications, along with skills like design thinking, data fluency, and critical thinking. It also emphasises ethical decision-making and bias awareness in AI. Developed with Macquarie University and local partners like Learning Links Foundation and 1M1B, this program aims to equip students with AI knowledge and skills to build AI models for real-life use cases.
Manav Subodh, the founder of 1M1B, a non-profit organisation, told AIM, that they want to help students practise and do things that would benefit their careers ahead. They implement curriculums related to AI, data science, AR/VR and data safety, amongst others—-and have partnered with IBM, Meta, and others to avail their programs in over 3,000 schools across India.
“We train people as per the National Education Policy 2020 standards. We make it project-based. The core problem besides tech within the course is, that, we are imparting problem-solving (abilities) using technology. Because there is no point in studying technology for technology’s sake, technology has to solve problems,” he added.
Further, he said that technology has to empower people and have an impact on the community. To implement this. “We have skilling programs and have curriculums which are implemented in skills from 6th standard onwards,” he explained. The company claimed that it conducts skilling programs and olympiads like ‘Future Tech Olympiad’ and ‘AI Startup School’ to foster prototype development and build critical workforce skills.
AIM recently visited one such event in Bangalore last week, organised by 1M1B, which saw a slew of students, parents, teachers, industry representatives and policymakers gather. At the event, students showcased the prototypes they built for agriculture, linguistics, and e-commerce use cases.
Showing the prototype, a class X student named Swaminathan told AIM that he had developed a model to identify the crop which would generate maximum yield based on updated data on soil health and condition from government portals.
Besides schools and colleges, on 6 September, IBM also renewed its research collaboration with IIT Bombay, and IISc Bangalore, to advance innovations in hybrid cloud and AI. This partnership, part of IBM’s AI Horizon Network, aims to tap into the intellectual talent of students, faculty, and researchers to address global challenges. The collaboration will focus on areas like natural language processing, generative AI, machine learning for time series data, fake news detection, hybrid cloud optimization, and sustainable computing.
IIT Bombay joined IBM’s AI Horizon Network in 2018 for AI research, while in 2021, IBM and IISc Bangalore launched the IBM-IISc Hybrid Cloud lab for hybrid cloud technology research and innovation.
What About Others?
Adobe, in collaboration with India’s Ministry of Education, this week launched a creative and digital literacy initiative called Adobe Express. Announced during the ongoing G-20 Summit, the program will impact 20 million students & 500,000 educators in India by 2027. AI-powered content creation app Adobe Express will be central to this effort, and the company will offer a curriculum that covers creativity, generative AI, design, animation, and emerging tech, aiming to empower students with future-ready skills.
Meta has also entered a three-year partnership with India’s Ministry of Education and Ministry of Skill Development and Entrepreneurship. This initiative aims to equip students, educators, and entrepreneurs with digital skills and training. Meta will work with organisations like NIESBUD, AICTE, and CBSE to provide digital marketing skills, diploma courses, and training in AR, VR, AI, and Digital Citizenship.
Additionally, Meta’s ongoing partnership with CBSE, which began in December 2021, aims to train 10 million students and 1 million educators in AR, VR, AI, and Digital Citizenship until 2026.
In August, the Directorate General of Training announced a collaboration with AWS in India to upskill students in cloud computing, data annotation, AI, and machine learning.
In 2018 Microsoft also launched Intelligent Cloud Hubs aimed at providing students with upskilling opportunities in AI and cloud technologies.
Google also partnered with CBSE, to train 1 million teachers by the end of 2020. Meanwhile, Google DeepMind is also doing something similar in the UK and Europe region partnering with Raspberry Pie to launch ‘Experience AI’—a learning programme to introduce AI/ML concepts and promote critical thinking. However, the programme is yet to be available in India.
These developments indicate that a lot of public partnership has been helping to upskill the Indian students. However, while all these initiatives are beneficial for the country and the ecosystem, the country needs additional support in the form of direct investment in research and AI development.