In January, last year, the government of Telangana announced that 2020 would be observed as the year of AI in the state. Telangana IT Minister KT Rama Rao had then said that this was the step in promoting and fostering AI innovation in the state and establishing the capital city of Hyderabad as one of the top 25 Global AI Innovation Hubs.
A year later, the Telangana government has released the 2020 Year of AI success report, collating the various initiatives undertaken under this project. Here we try to trace whether Telangana achieved what it set out to in the AI space and what are the lessons that can be drawn by other governments.
What Was Promised?
The whole AI-based transformation for the state was modelled largely on the IT boom experienced in the late 90s and the onset of the 21st century (when the state of Andhra Pradesh was not split yet).
The state government had said that it recognised six pillars strategies to work in this direction:
- Creation of datasets and developed a data exchange platform catering to mobility, healthcare, agriculture, and e-governance, among others.
- Setting up supercomputing infrastructure.
- Conducting regular hackathons, training and certification programs to recognise a quality talent pool of up to 30,000 people in AI/ machine learning/data science over the next three years.
- Developing a governance framework for the ethical use of data while also ensuring privacy.
- Facilitating advanced research and innovation by attracting talent from around the world.
- Enabling better AI adoption and community collaboration.
The government had also said that it has planned to enable 200 AI startups and innovators setting a base in capital city Hyderabad at a valuation of $3-4 billion, which would expectantly contribute an additional 1 per cent to the state’s GDP.
Telangana AI framework: The state government launched an AI framework exclusively for the state, claiming it to be first-of-its-kind in the country. This framework outlined actionable steps to be taken for research and innovation, public availability of datasets, adoption and collaboration, and investment for AI innovation.
AI and agriculture: As iterated by the government even during the launch of the program in early 2020, AI innovation in agriculture remained a major focus. Some of these projects include providing mentorship to 11 upcoming agritech startups; working with the central government on National e-Governance Plan for Agriculture; devising an AI-based pest management system that is already operational in two districts; and researching drone technology for application in agriculture.
COVID-19: It is a coincidence that the Year in AI project coincided with the time when the COVID-19 pandemic was at its peak. Resultant of which, a substantial amount of research was directed towards AI-based COVID-19 management. Under this, India’s first automated live monitoring system for geotagging services uses GPS was introduced. Telangana also deployed an AI-based recognition system to identify people not wearing masks. Under this initiative, a Hyderabad-based startup Leven Medical built an AI-based smart ventilator for remote patient health management.
Digital identity authentication: A first-of-its-kind, Telangana built a computer vision platform, called Real-Time Digital Authentication of Identity (RTDAI), to provide ‘contactless and presence less’ service delivery to people from home. The platform leverages AI, ML, Big Data, and deep learning.
Training and upskilling: An upskilling initiative called Telangana Academy for Skill and Knowledge (TASK) was introduced in collaboration with Microsoft and NASSCOM. The initiative aims at training 30,000 in AI in Telangana.
Other initiatives: Some of the projects are in the research and pilot stages. Some of them are AI-based Anthropometry for newborns, crowd management systems, and tech-based quality assessment of agricultural commodities.
Public-private partnerships: The initiative also saw a robust public-private partnership. Some of the collaborations included those with NASSCOM, Adobe, AWS, NVIDIA, Microsoft, and others.
Lessons For Others To Follow
One year is too short to bring about a complete change in a way technology is understood, viewed and adopted on large. As also mentioned by the Telangana government, this is the first step towards a larger decade-long project. Most of the successes in this initiative, albeit impressive, were project-specific. However, there are some important takeaways which may be adopted by others for better AI-related policy drafting:
- Identifying key areas of actions can be very helpful in streamlining the process of AI adoption.
- Private entities working in the field for a long time can bring in the expertise and industry-level guidance that is essential in technology adoption. Hence, a collaborative public-private partnership can be very beneficial.
- Adopting to current requirements quickly and effectively makes innovation more relevant. Telangana’s Year of AI overlapped with the pandemic, the research and development projects were rapidly steered towards providing solutions on COVID-19 related issues.
- Rapid training and upskilling in AI and other emerging technologies are the need for the hour for making youths job ready.
- Providing access to quality datasets and infrastructure for better research outcomes.
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I am a journalist with a postgraduate degree in computer network engineering. When not reading or writing, one can find me doodling away to my heart’s content.