[oped of the day] On AI, various government agencies have conflicting and confusing strategies

Mains Paper 3 : Awareness In The Fields Of It, Space, Computers, Robotics, Nano-Technology, Bio-Technology |

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Nothing much

Mains level : National AI strategy and action


Op-ed of the day is the most important editorial of the day. This will cover a key issue that came in the news and for which students must pay attention. This will also take care of certain key issues students have to cover in respective GS papers.

Context

To be a $5-trillion economy by 2025, India needs to build a cohesive national strategy around artificial intelligence. 

Status of AI application

  • The government is vocal about its intention to mainstream AI applications for social good, and ensure that AI research in India keeps pace with global developments.
  • There is little evidence to show that even the basic building blocks to achieve this have been put in place.
  • Multiple calls taken by various governmental agencies have led to confusing strategies, resulting in a very real danger of ineffective execution. 
  • The Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (MEITy), the Department of Industrial Policy and Promotion (DIPP), and the Niti Aayog have all released national strategy documents on governing structures, policy, and creation of new agencies. 
  • There is no mention of how these structures will co-exist towards the goal of a unified AI strategy for the country.

Work done so far – NITI

  • Niti Aayog’s “National Strategy for AI” report allocates a budget of Rs 7,500 crore.
  • It recommends setting up Centers for Research Excellence (COREs) in conjunction with academic institutions. 
  • It also recommends setting up International Centers for Transformational AI (ICTAIs) in association with leading industry players. 
  • Limitation – It falls short of clearly recommending the governance framework under which this should happen. 

DIPP

  • With a budget of Rs 1,200 crore towards setting up the National AI Mission (N-AIM). 
  • The N-AIM is supposed to be the nodal agency for all “AI related activities” in India which will also set up their own “centers of excellence” to promote interdisciplinary research, and assess the performance of various AI-based products in India.

MEITy

  • It plans to allocate a Rs 400-crore budget for new technology initiatives as part of the Digital India Programme, including working with the Digital India Corporation to set up yet another apex body for AI called the National Center for Artificial Intelligence (NCAI). 

Sector-specific AI

  • Sector-specific AI applications such as facial recognition and crop classification are being supervised by different state and central-level ministries with no consolidation around the strategies. 
  • This can lead to fragmented adoption of technology, duplication of effort, and a wasteful use of financial resources.

Indian AI policy – Limitations

  • India is heading in a direction where both the private and public sectors are unified in their commitment to promote and upscale AI.
  • Most of these commitments have been made on paper, in budget speeches, proposals and heavily researched reports
  • None of the recommendations highlighted earlier have yet been implemented in any useful form.
  • Countries like Taiwan went from announcing a $36-million project to build a supercomputing platform to boost AI research in June 2018, to launching the National Public Cloud Computing platform, based on the Taiwania 2 supercomputer, in June 2019.

Way ahead

  • Policy-makers and agencies should converge their ideas around the groundwork that has been laid. 
  • There is also a need for greater transparency in the timelines and roadmaps associated with these announcements.
  • India’s AI strategy narrative needs to change from being a reactionary step to “counter the charge” of countries like China, to a proactive one where policies and infrastructure serve as “a beacon of inspiration” to other countries. 

Conclusion

As the DIPP policy recognises, “people, process and technology” are non-negotiable for AI to proliferate in India, but in the absence of the first two, much will still left to be achieved in the third.

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