A Task Force on Artificial Intelligence (AI) set up by
the Indian Government’s Ministry of Commerce & Industry in August 2017 and headed by Professor V Kamakoti from the Indian Institute of Technology, Madras, submitted its report last
month. One of the key recommendations in the report is to establish an inter-ministerial national mission to coordinate AI-related activities across the country.
(There are other Government-established committees working on different aspects of AI. The Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology has set up four committees to understand various regulatory and technical challenges associated with AI and potential implementation areas. NITI Aayog (National Institution for Transforming India), the premier policy thinktank of the Government of India, has been asked to initiate a national programme to direct efforts in the area of AI.)
The taskforce looked at Al as a socio-economic problem
solver at large scale, rather than only a booster of economic growth. The
report attempts to answer three policy questions: 1) What are the areas where
Government should play a role; 2) How can Al improve quality of life and solve
problems at scale for Indian citizens; and (3) What are the sectors that can
generate employment and growth by the use of AI technology?
The taskforce identified 10 important domains of relevance
to India: Manufacturing, FinTech, Healthcare, Agriculture/Food processing,
Education, Retail/Customer Engagement, Aid for Differently Abled /Accessibility
Technology, Environment, National Security and Public Utility Services.
The report elaborates on specific challenges in the adoption
of Al-based systems and processes in these domains and discusses key enablers, as
well as ethical and social safety issues to ensure responsible use of Al.
The taskforce believes that the Government should focus on a
set of common and critical enablers that support the use of emerging Al
Technologies across the different domains of focus, build the necessary
infrastructure and frame policies that level the playing field for development
of Al-based products and services. The report notes that the democratisation of
development and use involves not only equal access to all but also assigning
ownership and framing transparent rules for usage of the infrastructure.
The report makes eight recommendations for the Government of
India, which the authors believe are important prerequisites for quick,
effective and secure adoption of AI based technologies.
A nodal agency for
coordinating Al-related activities in India
The report calls for funds from the Union Budget to set up an
Inter-Ministerial National Artificial Intelligence Mission (N-AIM) that will
act as a nodal agency.
The Mission would be involved in core activities, coordination
of AI-related projects of national importance; and, establishing Centers of
According to the report the duration of the Mission should
be for a period of at least 5 years for it to achieve tangible results. The
level and sources of funding can be reviewed after 5 years and can be
supplemented at any stage as needed by private companies incorporated in India.
The recommended funding for the Mission is a total of Rs. 1.2
billion (US$ 185 million) for 5 years, out of which Rs. 500 million (US$ 7.7
million) per annum can be allocated for the core activities, Rs. 250 milliion
per Center of Excellence per annum for each of the six Centers, Rs. 200 million
per annum each for a Generic Al test Bed and large data integration center. The
funding for the projects of National importance shall be done separately by the
concerned Ministry/group of Ministries.
Its core activities would include:
- Funding establishment of a network of alliances among
Academia, Services Industry, Product Industry, startups and Government
Ministries including, but not restricted to, Knowledge Clusters in geographies
such as NCR, Bengaluru-Hyderabad, Chennai, Kolkatta-Kharagpur-Guwahati,
Mumbai-Pune, Trivandrum, Chandigarh-Mohali, and Kanpur-Varanasi to fuel
research, development and deployment of AI based products and services in the
varied domains of focus
- Funding national-level studies to identify concrete projects
in each domain of focus, specifically, those that address important social
issues, such as cataract detection by mass screening aided by an AI-based
diagnostic tool, automation of hazardous jobs such as manual scavenging and
disaster recovery plans using Al powered robotics
- Funding a national-level survey on identification of
clusters of clean annotated data necessary for building effective Al based
systems in each domain of focus as well as methodologies to record such data
- Establishing and administering national Al Challenge funds
and Capture the Flag competitions specifically targeting design, development
and prototyping of Al based systems for solving problems of the society at
large. This shall also involve defining the problem, provision of real data
sets and criteria for measuring efficiency based on domain specific Key
Performance Indicators (KPI)
- Funding Al awareness raising at scale, especially in the
rural hinterland, through Al-Yatras (‘yatra’=journey) along the lines of the
successful Society for the Promotion of Indian Classical Music and Art Culture
Among Youth (SPIC MACAY) Lecture-Demonstrations
- Convening Talent Conferences (Hack-a-Mela; ‘Mela’= fair)
where inter-disciplinary insights can be generated for applying Al to problems
of Urban Planning, Transportation, Public Health, smart power grid and smart
water grid; and for promotion of innovation in Al.
Projects of national importance
For projects of national importance, the nodal agency will coordinate
with concerned Ministries of Government of India to accelerate development and
commercialisation of Al-based products and technology through Public Private
Partnership models and Startups.
Special emphasis would be given to: (a) high precision
manufacturing sectors; (b) Precision Agriculture; (c) Accessibility aids for
the physically challenged; (d) Smart cities -effective delivery and improvement
of services such as Clean Air monitoring, efficient public transportation, electricity
and water supply, and fuel distribution; (e) smart resource usage specifically,
environment versus energy tradeoffs – including smart power grid and smart
water grid; and, (f) Predictive maintenance of public utility infrastructure
including power plants.
Centers of Excellence
N-AIM would also create Centers of Excellence (CoEs) for promoting
interdisciplinary research across disciplines such as Humanities and Social
Sciences, Law, Science, Medicine and Engineering to facilitate deeper
understanding of the possibilities and implications of adoption of different Al
based technologies and products. The Centres would also work towards mechanisms
for identification and assessment of risks and define frameworks for design and
development of risk mitigation/contingency plans.
The CoEs will generate basic building blocks to be used by
the industry. These would include but not be restricted to technologies for
autonomous cars/trucks, medical assist devices, health genomics, agri-genomics,
health-diagnostics, industrial automation, robotics, cyber-security and
FinTech. The locations for the centers will be chosen based on the presence of
entities and expertise related to the respective domains.
Generic AI test bed and data integration center
A generic Al Test Bed would be established for verification
and validation of Key Performance Indicators of different Al-based products and
Technologies. This could include regulatory sandboxes for certain technologies
relevant to India, in areas such as Health, Manufacturing and Retail.
In addition, the report recommends funding for an
inter-disciplinary and dedicated large data integration center in pilot mode to
develop an autonomous Al Machine that can work on multiple data streams in real
time and provide relevant information and predictions to public across all
Data banks, exchanges
The report recommends enabling the setting up of digital
data banks, marketplaces and exchanges to ensure availability of cross-industry
data and information, with necessary sharing related regulations.
The Ministry of Information Technology could act as the nodal
agency for coordinating the setting up of the above-mentioned facilities, while
the Ministry of Commerce and Industry would need to drive the regulations
related to data ownership, sharing and privacy issues.
The Ministry of Commerce and Industry needs to create and
functionalise a data-ombudsman, on lines similar to banking and Insurance, to
quickly address data-related issues and grievances.
Al based systems being highly inter-disciplinary require
operation standards that involve understanding of multiple domains. Some
examples include: Data storage and privacy standards; Communication standards
for Autonomous Systems including Autonomous Cars; and, Standards for
interoperability between Al based systems.
The Bureau of Indian Standards is expected to play a crucial
role here. The report goes on to say that India should actively participate in international
Standards working groups.
The Government has to come up with policies to encourage and
enable development and deployment of Al-based products.
For instance, the Ministry of Information Technology and
Ministry of Commerce and Industry can lead efforts on data policy including
ownership, sharing rights and usage policies.
Tax incentives could be provided for income generated due to
adoption of Al technologies and applications, for socially relevant projects.
This involves certification of a technology as AI-based and then fixing the
incentive. This would involve the concerned Ministry under whose domain the
application fits in, as well as the Ministry of Information Technology and the
This area requires devising an Al Education strategy to
develop human resource with necessary skill sets to meet the demand for Al professionals.
This involves arriving at a target number of human resources required on a
yearly basis for each skill set across each of the domains of focus and
methodologies to train/re-train them.
This also includes recommending Al-related curriculums for
school, diploma, undergraduate and postgraduate education. The Ministry of
Human Resource Development and the Ministry of Skill Development and
Entrepreneurship may lead this effort.
The National Skill Development Corporation could create an Al
Readiness Index to measure the readiness of different states across India to
adopt AI. It could also identify skill sets required for Al based technology
development and map the same across different levels of professional education
– diploma, undergraduate, postgraduate and research.
The report recommends active participation in shaping
international policy discussions on governance of Al related technologies. This
would require appropriate inter-ministerial consultative mechanisms that make
regular recommendations for Government policy and positioning at relevant
international forums, through the Ministry of External Affairs.
India should leverage key bilateral partnerships such as
with Canada, Germany, Israel, Japan, Russia, Singapore, UK and the U.S. to
develop Al solutions for social and economic problems, and for sharing of best
practices in regulation. The Ministry of External Affairs and relevant
departments, such as the Department of Science and Technology could lead this
Access the complete report here.