From the perspective of international politics and context, India faces some major challenges in terms of not only infusing AI technology in various sectors but also in terms of competition from its contemporaries. It will be fallacy to say that India has arrived late to comprehend and ponder over adoption of AI. However, India’s desire to assume leadership in the nascent technology would have to be a careful balance of local needs and larger good.
If we compare the international scenarios, China and US are topping the world in terms of producing research papers related to AI. This analysis reveals that China and US are ploughing talent and and money in artificial intelligence and machine learning. China aims to develop AI industry generating $60 billion of annual output by 2025 and also, plans to invest $150 billion industry by 2030 exhibiting a desire to beat the US and become superpower. The competition between China and the US has been a major topic of discussion in various other studies. For instance, this research article by Simon Alvarez points out similar trends in terms of research initiatives for AI. The article argues that China is rapidly catching up to the US with former contributing 13% towards research and latter has declined by 6%. The research output of countries like UK, Singapore and Japan is quite notable in AI and related areas. The international picture suggests that US has been funding AI for over 50 years while China, Japan, Korea and Germany follow the suit of research and development. India is racing behind Israel and China. In terms of India’s research expenditure compared against China, India spends meagre 0.6 percent of its GDP on research expenditure, while the latter allots a 2 percent of its GDP in research related endeavours. India’s research potential is aimed at producing professionals like engineers and not at developing research talent. In this context, a report points that “out of 129 deemed universities, 67 public institutions, 700 degree-granting institutions, 35,539 affiliated colleges, there are only 15 universities that contribute to almost 42 percent of all research publications”. Amitabh Kant, CEO of Niti Aayog has stated in his article, “Our IITs and IIITs must redefine themselves as institutes driving cutting edge technologies for the fourth industrial revolution”. The research talent becomes pertinent question when we take a look at the number of PhD holders in AI. According to Global AI Talent Report 2018, India counts for merely 386 out of roughly 22,000 PhD educated AI researchers worldwide.
According to Niti Aayog’s paper, India’s research community is confined to a handful of academic institutes, and relies heavily upon individual talents than on institutional efforts. Furthermore, private sector contribution towards AI related programs is scarce. Therefore, in order to develop AI effectively in India an important recommendation would be to advance in the direction of both core and applied research.
The chart here sourced from Factor Daily is a pictorial representation of research carried out by Scopus with regards to the research produced on AI.
The international realm also suggests that China and other countries are heavily investing in AI at local level. The local governments in China are providing financial reinforcements which is further driving tech companies like Apple, Qualcomm, Alibaba, Tencent to set up new big data centres in Guizhou provinces. The start ups and companies like Alibaba are either adopting AI or investing in it.
India in its move to embrace the Fourth Industrial revolution is gradually treading towards re- aligning its education with hands on experience in learning practical subjects. The Atal Innovation Mission has an objective of having nearly 2000 schools with tinkering labs with robots, 3D printers, and additive machinery. This technology is not only an upgrade over outdated innovations but also assists students to build and experiment. Some initiatives from the private sector and government of Karnataka are praiseworthy. The setting up of Centre of Excellence for Data Science and Artificial intelligence in partnership with Nasscom, and Wadhwani Foundation to develop AI solutions for social good are some efforts to develop AI research paradigms in India. Moreover, in this year’s budget speech Finance Minister Arun Jaitley has announced the budgetary allocation for Digital India programme to be ₹3,073 crores alongwith plans to incentivise startups and venture funds to undertake application-based research on key sectors like banking, insurance, education,health, retail and transportation.
To conclude, it will be intriguing to see how India move towards developing its research base, educational foundations in its endeavour to ingrain AI. Needless to mention, adoption of any kind of technology must be inevitably linked with accommodation of diverse sections and address governance related challenges. It is time we ask ourselves what should be the telos of having a technologically upgraded nation- easing life, lessening digital gaps and in the end inching towards the society that compensates for the disadvantaged section.
This piece is written by Manisha Chachra. Manisha is Associate Researcher at Govern.