As president of the Global Partnership on AI this year, India has the chance to lead the international dialogue around general-purpose AI technologies and push for responsible and inclusive AI
Despite already being employed extensively, AI is still collectively categorised as an ‘emerging’ technology, since its propensity for evolution still remains high and continuous.Russian President Vladimir Putin already indicated this back in 2017 and had said that, “whoever leads the incumbent AI race will become the ruler of the world”. Every year since then has only further strengthened this perception, with regular mind-boggling progress around AI and several countries scrambling to get a slice of the AI pie while it is still hot. Although India jumped on the AI bandwagon belatedly as compared to many of its contemporaries, it has made a multitude of rapid advancements and is now recognised as an emerging power in the global AI paradigm. India has explored AI use in almost every industry, ranging from public services, defence, and healthcare, to education, finance, and creative professions. While a chunk of this contemporaneous transformation has been spearheaded by government initiatives and resulting institutional support, many changes have been brought about by private and Big Tech companies and numerous homegrown AI startups as well. The Indian market and human capital are also moulding themselves to this transitional shift, and India is now ranked first in the world on AI skill penetration and AI talent concentration, ahead of all other G20 countries. Data and AI are envisioned to add about US$500 billion to India’s GDP by 2025 and new AI-related jobs are set to steer the Indian market in the next five years.
India has explored AI use in almost every industry, ranging from public services, defence, and healthcare, to education, finance, and creative professions.However, simultaneously with this mass influx of AI, concerns abound regarding the eventual loss of jobs in India’s massive information technology (IT) sector, which is still saturated by low-end AI talent rather than cutting-edge research and innovation competence. This is an especially relevant consideration in the current era of generative AI, spurred by OpenAI’s release of its wildly popular large language model ChatGPT late last year. While gen-AI, like any other brand new tech dimension, lends a number of opportunities and first-mover advantages to the countries that have the capacity to invest in and develop them, India has been slow on the uptake around this, largely due to lack of funding and a hazy conception of the technology itself by the government and investors. If India wants to continue its upward climb on the AI front, it cannot ignore the burgeoning importance of gen-AI inclusion within its ecosystem, and it needs to institutionalise more targeted education and skill development programmes around frontier technologies like AI. Along with this, higher funding, both government and private, for indigenous tech companies building AI systems for various sectors and applications is also critical, so that the next major AI breakthrough can emerge in India. Additionally, it should also be a priority for India to collaborate with more of its strategic partner countries and multilateral groupings on AI-related trade and developments, adding to a repertoire that currently includes the United States (US), Russia, European Union (EU), and the Quad, among others.
It should also be a priority for India to collaborate with more of its strategic partner countries and multilateral groupings on AI-related trade and developments, adding to a repertoire that currently includes the United States (US), Russia, European Union (EU), and the Quad, among others.To ergonomically and successfully bring this cascade of positive changes for the country’s AI revolution, the first step that India needs to take is to strengthen and diversify its policy processes and outcomes around AI, so that it has a comprehensive plan of action in place. Constructive work around this began in 2018 when NITI Aayog released India’s National Strategy on AI, but given the substantial headway around AI in the five years since, this is now out of date and needs to be revised and acclimatised to the current scenario. A number of other national AI policies specific to certain sectors, demographics and ministries have been produced since, but these have been fragmented efforts with limited applicability and effectiveness. There are also no official monitoring and evaluation mechanisms for these policies, or a national apex body on AI that can oversee their translation into ground realities. Considering that India has the presidency of the Global Partnership on AI (GPAI) this year, this is also India’s chance to lead the international dialogue around general-purpose AI technologies and push for responsible and inclusive AI, which has been a policy priority for the country. The government also realises that its work around AI cannot be carried out in isolation and that it needs the support and participation of epistemic knowledge-making communities around AI, which is why it recently released a call for papers ahead of the annual GPAI summit later in the year.
The government also realises that its work around AI cannot be carried out in isolation and that it needs the support and participation of epistemic knowledge-making communities around AI, which is why it recently released a call for papers ahead of the annual GPAI summit later in the year.Going forward, India needs to adopt a hydra approach to its AI ecosystem to retain, strengthen and advance its current position as an emerging AI power—amalgamate its core AI philosophy and roadmap into one apex body and national policy, while retaining and producing separate sectoral guidelines, standards, and strategies to ensure effective policy synthesis and execution at various levels. Cohesive partnerships amongst the government, industry, academia, and civil society should augment this structural setup, and a regular appraisal of new and emerging AI-based technologies as well as national actions around them should take place to ensure that India’s stance in the age of AI is fail-safe and future-proofed.
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Shimona Mohan is a Junior Fellow in the Centre for Security Strategy and Technology (CSST) at ORF. Her areas of research include the multifarious intersections ...Read More +