Blockchain Technology: Prospects and Challenges

[op-ed snap] The dream of being an AI powerhouse


Mains Paper 3: Science & Technology | developments & their applications & effects in everyday life

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Artificial intelligence (AI)

Mains level: Use of AI in governance in India


NITI Aayog’s strategy for AI

  1. In a recent discussion paper, NITI Aayog has chalked out an ambitious strategy for India to become an artificial intelligence (AI) powerhouse
  2. NITI Aayog envisions AI solutions for India on a scale not seen anywhere in the world today, especially in five key sectors — agriculture, healthcare, education, smart cities and infrastructure, and transport

What is AI?

  1. AI is the use of computers to make decisions that are normally made by humans
  2. It works on Machine learning which is the set of technologies used to create AI
  3. ML takes reams of historical data as input, identifies the relationships among data elements, and makes predictions

Problems in making AI stride in India

The first problem is data

  • India has sparse data in sectors like agriculture
  • The lack of data means that deep learning doesn’t work for all companies in India

Another problem for AI firms today is finding the right people

  • NITI Aayog’s report says that only about 50 Indian scientists carry out “serious research” and they are concentrated in elite institutions such as the Indian Institutes of Technology and the Indian Institutes of Science
  • Only about 4% of AI professionals have worked in emerging technologies like deep learning

What needs to be done?

  1. If the government is serious about AI solutions powering agriculture or healthcare, it must collect and digitize better under its existing programs
  2. To close the skill gap, NITI Aayog suggests setting up a network of basic and applied AI research institutes. These should collaborate closely with agricultural universities, medical colleges and infrastructure planners
  3. NITI Aayog’s ambitious road map does not mention deadlines or funding. Without these, it lacks accountability so this should be announced first

Way forward

  1. The NITI Aayog report talks about collaboration. But unless collaboration is the basis for the new crop of institutes, these institutes won’t make a difference
  2. The government must make haste and specify its commitments on these fronts
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