Innovation in artificial intelligence has been happening at a neck-breaking speed. Almost every industry and sector has adopted this technology, albeit in varying degrees. AI is also said to have a considerable impact on a country’s economy. Speaking of India, as per a recent Accenture report, AI can contribute nearly $957 billion (15% of current GDP) to the Indian economy by 2035. The Indian artificial intelligence market is valued at $6.4 billion (as of August 2020).
Recognising AI’s potential, India’s government has launched several ambitious initiatives and partnerships in this field over the years. Some of the most significant announcements made in recent years include introducing the National Strategy for AI (AIForAll) in 2018 and the formation of a task force on artificial intelligence for India’s economic transformation in 2017.
However, India still lags behind other nations such as the USA and China in AI innovations and development.
Three main challenges are:
Lack of investment
In India, the cost of failure is much higher than in the West. This prevents any innovative experimentations. One of the major factors is the huge amount of backup and investment received by companies in developed nations, as opposed to India-based firms.A Brookings report showed that in 2019, the US and China headed the table in terms of investment in AI, attracting total funding of up to $25 billion and $5 billion, respectively. On the other hand, Indian AI companies were able to bag $486 million.
Things have started to look up. The year 2021 started on a positive note, with several India-based AI companies entering the unicorn club. According to Aditya Gupta, chief architect and co-founder, SirionLabs, “AI in India has had an interesting trajectory. India currently has 20 unicorns collectively valued at $75Bn. Around 50 Indian start-ups are poised to join the unicorn club by 2022. Many US-based venture firms are betting big on us too. India is amongst the founding members of the GPAI (Global Partnership on AI), which speaks volumes about India’s potential in AI.”
India has the potential to adopt and integrate AI technologies. Still, there is a lack of focus on collaborations at the sector level which can engage students and help them build skills for the industry. A 2019 study by Great Learning showed that while India’s AI workforce doubled to 72,000 compared to the previous year, many positions were still lying vacant. There is a need to push the envelope regarding talent, data, and technology in India to drive AI growth.
According to Dr Ranjit Nair, CEO, Germin8, “If one is focused on AI solutions for the foreign market, the main challenge is that quality talent in India for AI is still in short supply. Some professionals know about different AI approaches, but practical hands-on experience of what will work best for different situations is not easy to find. This results in more experimenting and longer project durations.”
However, now many institutes offer AI and related technologies courses, and professionals have shown an enthusiastic response by joining these programmes in encouraging numbers. 2020 also saw several platforms and companies offering free courses in AI, encouraging more participation.
According to a report by ICRIER, one of India’s leading think tanks, there is a need to identify a nodal agency within the government for the development and diffusion of AI to push wide-scale AI adoption in India. Since there is a lack of collaboration between the industry and academia, it is necessary to build collaborative frameworks to foster growth, promote innovative localised solutions, and build an all-encompassing data strategy to improve state capacity to provide AI. AI has immense potential to create a strong foundation in India; however, it is important to leverage its capabilities and have a planned course of action to reap the benefits.
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Ritika Sagar is currently pursuing PDG in Journalism from St. Xavier's, Mumbai. She is a journalist in the making who spends her time playing video games and analyzing the developments in the tech world.