Governments around the world have a unifying role in facilitating safe and ethical innovation through the use of artificial intelligence. The past decade, the Indian government has worked on various aspects of AI policy and implementing it. The Indian AI ecosystem in the government currently consists of innovation centres, projects, capacity building, reskilling and policies, all of which is being carried out via organisations under MeitY. The rapid pace of change in the AI and ML space requires an agile regulatory environment. The development and deployment of AI technologies require vast infrastructural resources, computing power as well as network connectivity.
There are a number of agencies working under The Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology which are pushing forward India’s AI infrastructure directly or indirectly. The functions of these agencies closely align with making sure that there are plenty of resources to create a healthy technological ecosystem for data-related innovation. Such organisations and units are working closely with MeitY, taking the task of deployment of AI forward. These organisations are also consolidating the efforts made by all stakeholders to drive change in advancing India in AI.
In this article, we take a look at very MeitY organisations which are advancing India’s AI stack.
National Informatics Centre (NIC)
National Informatics Centre (NIC) is India’s leading government agency on data intelligence in government. It has accumulated India’s critical data on the census, weather, stock market, budget, elections and citizen services collected over decades and uses it for generating insights. NIC also formed an open government data platform under the direction of MeitY, which is accessible at data.gov.in. As of today, it has 4,25,000 datasets available in a machine-readable format which has been released in the open domain by various ministries and departments across the government of India. All of these datasets can be consumed through APIs directly.
The portal has received around 29 million views so far and 400,000 registered users who have used the data for research, data journalism, analytics and statistical modelling, etc. NIC has around 350 chief data officers working across various government departments who are driving the data journey of their units and releasing government data in an open format which can be used by startups, industry or research or academia. In the last few years, NIC has set up a number of CoEs across India, including CoEs on data analytics, AI and microservices. NIC also does many hackathons and academia on the datasets for developing various apps.
Centre for Development of Advanced Computing (CDAC)
The Centre for Development of Advanced Computing (CDAC) was formed in 1987, and since then it has built supercomputing systems for India, popularly known as the PARAM series of supercomputers. When it comes to building exascale infrastructure, CDAC under MeitY has been working on a national grid of high-performance computing (HPC) systems. This will provide the computing power needed in India’s AI stack. CDAC is building the next generation of supercomputers allowing firms to run their models on machines with high capabilities.
The supercomputing systems and facilities of CDAC are used to solve computationally intensive predicaments across sectors. Its infrastructure has been used by startups, researchers and faculty members across India to push India on a faster track to AI plans. One of the systems which CDAC have designed recently for managing very large scale AI workloads is Param- Siddhi AI, a supercomputer with 100 AI Petaflops and 2.5 million cores.
Software Technology Parks of India (STPI)
Another important government body under the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology( MeitY) is Software Technology Parks of India. STPI is an Autonomous Society formed in 1991, with the goal of boosting Software Exports from India. STPI, along with other agencies, has played a crucial role in helping India become a global leader in IT services.
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STPI in recent years has changed its focus on software products. Regarding the fact that India hasn’t done very well in software product development, MeitY came up with the idea to capitalise on the nation’s talent, IT services industry and the market resolved to make India a software product nation. First, it came up with the National Policy on Software Product 2019 and tasked STPI to make India a software product nation. Given many software products these days utilise artificial intelligence, STPI has opened eight centres of excellence (COE) where AI/ML, computer vision, and automation has the primary focus. The CoEs are working on sectors like fintech, med-tech, agritech, electronics systems development, manufacturing, game tech, autonomous vehicles, etc. and associated fields where AI can be applied. There are CoEs on other technologies which STPI have started as well.
The National Artificial Intelligence Portal was launched in 2020. Known as India AI, the portal has been developed by the National Association of Software and Service Companies (NASSCOM) and supported by the National e-Governance Division of MeitY. It is the meeting point for students, entrepreneurs, AI experts, companies, and the government for nationwide sourcing and distribution of best AI ideas and practices.
The portal is intended to give information on the complete AI ecosystem covering startups, VC funds, research bodies, big tech companies, and educational institutions. The portal will reinforce the capability of AI for various stakeholders and startups in utilising data-driven innovation. The portal will also disseminate documents, case studies, research reports, datasets, training programs in AI.
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Vishal Chawla is a senior tech journalist at Analytics India Magazine and writes about AI, data analytics, cybersecurity, cloud computing, and blockchain. Vishal also hosts AIM's video podcast called Simulated Reality- featuring tech leaders, AI experts, and innovative startups of India.