After rolling out the National AI Strategy in February 2020, the US government has now established a National Artificial Intelligence Initiative Office. Under the aegis of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP), the newly established office will amplify the ‘efforts to ensure America’s leadership’ in new-generation technologies such as artificial intelligence, machine learning, etc.
The National Intelligence Initiative Office will also oversee the implementation of the National AI Strategy and act as the central hub for coordination and collaboration in research and policymaking, bringing together people from the private and public sectors, academia, etc.
What Does It Entail?
The office was established as part of the National Artificial Intelligence Initiative Act signed into law under the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA).
Speaking to the media, the US Chief Technology Officer Michael Kratsios said, “The National Artificial Intelligence Initiative Office will be integral to the Federal government’s AI efforts for many years to come, serving as a central hub for national AI research and policy for the entire US innovation ecosystem.”
The new National AI Initiative Office will oversee the following AI initiatives at the White House:
- Increasing AI research investment, utilising AI computing and data resources from the federal government, setting technical standards in AI, building workforce, and engaging with international partners.
- The expansion of the Select Committee on Artificial Intelligence launched in 2018. The long term goal is to make the committee permanent to serve as a ‘senior interagency body’.
- Including an AI risk assessment framework in the AI technical standards collated first in 2019.
- Ensuring the AI-related data, cloud, and high-performance computing are prioritised as directed by the White House in 2019, along with expanding the National AI Research Resource.
- Setting aside an annual AI budget for R&D investments to meet the National AI Initiative’s goals.
Lessons For India
Being one of the fastest-growing countries, India could benefit significantly from an AI revolution. During his budgetary speech for 2018-19, then Indian Finance Minister, the late Arun Jaitley, called for establishing a National Program on AI.
In 2020, the Indian government said it was evaluating the strategy on artificial intelligence, and the draft cabinet note on the same is under consideration.
Additionally, NITI Aayog has announced the proposal for setting up an oversight body to address research, education, logistics and policy areas of AI.
Other efforts for India’s stronger push towards adopting an AI policy include the proposal for setting up an AI-specific cloud compute infrastructure as detailed in a paper titled AIRAWAT; an investment proposal of Rs 7,5000 crore for funding five institutes or centres for research excellence (CORE); 20 international centres for transformational AI (ICTAI); launching a one-stop platform for AI-related advancements in India, among others.
However, the question remains whether these steps are enough, considering most of them are still at the proposal/draft stage.
India ranks 40th in the government AI readiness index 2020. The same list places the US on top, a direct result of a dedicated national AI strategy. This further reiterates how having a nation-wide framework for AI strategy and implementation is the need of the hour. Some of the factors to consider for framing India’s AI strategy are:
- Increased investment in AI-related R&D. India hosts some of the most exciting research landscapes for emerging technologies such as AI. In fact, India was placed third in AI research by the Nature Index 2020 Artificial Intelligence report. If duly supported by the government in terms of funds, infrastructure and resources, AI research will grow bigger and better. The government must also look at incentivising research to attract the best minds.
- A joint study by EY and NASSCOM has found that up to 46% of the workforce will be engaged in new jobs that do not exist today. Most of these jobs would require skill sets based heavily on technologies such as AI. Hence, the need for training and upskilling the future workforce in new-age tech becomes indispensable.
- The AI policy should outline focus areas and possible AI applications in different sectors such as healthcare, education, and governance, among others.
- While we speak of a move towards an AI-enabled future, the requirement to adopt Responsible AI mustn’t be overlooked.
- The long-term strategy should strive for placing India at the leadership position in terms of leveraging AI for economic growth, social development, and inclusive growth.