Inside India’s AI Ambitions: From Education To Farming, How Govt Is Cradling The Generative AI Boom

Inside India’s AI Ambitions: From Education To Farming, How Govt Is Cradling The Generative AI Boom


The Indian govt is working on integrating ChatGPT into its Digital India Bhashini to help remove English as a barrier to higher education and other applications

According to NITI Aayog, AI has the potential to add $1 Tn to India’s economy by 2035

Between 2013 and 2022, Indian AI companies received $7.73 Bn, the sixth highest in the world

Artificial Intelligence (AI) is making remarkable advancements with each passing day, progressing from simply responding to preset commands to conversational AI, and now to generative AI. These strides have been fuelled by deep learning techniques, the emergence of large language models (LLM), and the introduction of generative adversarial networks (GAN).

While these are still early days, OpenAI’s LLM ChatGPT has already broken all records in terms of its adoption, with more than 1 Mn users within five days of its launch and 100 Mn users within two months. Just to set some context, TikTok and Instagram took nine months and 2.5 years to hit the 100 Mn user base mark.

At a time when AI adoption has spread like wildfire, the race to develop a more conscious AI has become more intense. While, on the one hand, we have US-based tech giants such as Google, Microsoft, Meta and AWS shaping and powering the new tech, China’s Baidu, on the other hand, claims to have built a style bot Ernie (similar to ChatGPT). Other tech giants with ambitious AI plans are Huawei, Alibaba and JD.

Given that thousands of companies are chasing the dream to develop more powerful AI that could rival human consciousness someday, many countries are scared that the technology could wander into evil, and therefore, have been actively exploring ways to regulate it.

So, amid the current scheme of things…

What Is India’s Stand On The Global Generative AI Revolution?

Unlike the race for internet adoption in the early 2000s, India was determined not to lag behind when it came to embracing the AI revolution.

The timeline of AI initiatives by the Indian govt

Back in 2020, India, along with 15 countries, formed an alliance called the Global Partnership on Artificial Intelligence (GPAI) to come up with frameworks on how emerging technologies need to be harnessed in a responsible manner.

India is currently the council chair of the GPAI. With 29 member countries, GPAI is an international and multi-stakeholder initiative to guide the responsible development and use of AI, navigated by factors such as human rights, inclusion, diversity, innovation, and economic growth.

Besides multiple international partnerships on AI, the Indian government has also been working on building an AI ecosystem within the country.

Further, according to NITI Aayog, AI has the potential to add $1 Tn to India’s economy by 2035. That’s besides the potential for creating future job opportunities.

AI could add $1 Tn to India's economy by 2035

For context, Indian Railways alone has identified at least 90 use cases of AI. This includes signalling, overhead equipment, locomotive, carriage & wagon, material management, finance, human resource management and security. In manufacturing, 35+ use cases have been identified. Similarly, several use cases have been identified in healthcare, agriculture, smart cities, education, etc.

One can only imagine the other parts of the Indian economy that can leverage AI in a similar fashion to revamp and get ready for a more conscious AI-driven future.

According to the Stanford AI Index Report, 2023, Indian AI companies received $3.24 Bn in funding in 2022, securing India the fifth spot among the countries that received the most investments in AI. The top four countries were the US, China, the UK and Israel.

Between 2013 and 2022, Indian AI companies received $7.73 Bn, the sixth highest in the world.

India is ranked among the top 10 nations in terms of investment in AI

According to various reports, the Indian government is also working on integrating ChatGPT into its chatbots such as Digital India Bhashini, which was launched in July 2022.

Digital India Bhashini aims to enable internet access and all sorts of digital services to core Indian languages. Thus, a person knowing only Hindi or any other local language can read and fetch all the available information on the internet in his/her local language.

With this initiative, the nation aims to create opportunities by making science and technology accessible to all through computer-aided translation and removing the dependency on English in technology development and research.

This is just one of the many baby steps that the Indian government has taken with regard to AI, and just one part of the National Programme for AI.

Building India-Specific AI: What Is There In India’s AI Treasure Trove?

So far, the Indian government has mainly focussed on developing conversational AI products mostly based on NLP and ML.

However, with the emergence and immediate popularity of ChatGPT, the Indian government is expected to integrate ChatGPT into various AI solutions to improve the user experience and tool efficiency.

On February 3, 2023, Rajeev Chandrasekhar, the Union Minister of State for Electronics and Information Technology, said in the parliament that the government was aware of the emergence of these technologies [generative AI] and their rapid proliferation in sectors like education, manufacturing, healthcare, finance, and others.

Indian govt AI initiatives

Among the key possible use cases that the Indian government is mulling on implementing are:

Using Generative AI To Make Education Affordable & Accessible: The Chat-GPT-based Digital India Bhashini will help students learn scientific and technical concepts in their own language.

Currently, most higher education books and research resources are available only in English. India’s plans for AI development and skilling intend to solve this problem for all students.

Besides, the generative AI-based tool will also help students learn in a non-judgemental environment. This enables students to ask questions on anything and everything and accordingly could also provide feedback on their responses without being judgemental about the same.

AI-Powered Tools To Help Farmers: Many companies, such as CISCO, Ninjacart, Jio Platforms, ITC and NCDEX, have already signed MoUs under the Digital Agriculture Mission and are conducting pilots to introduce digital technologies like blockchain and AI in the farm sector.

A ChatGPT-powered tool could, indeed, help farmers discover and know more about various government schemes in their local languages. The ChatGPT-based bot would also educate farmers in various areas like weather, rainfall, farm input and water utilisation, helping them make better decisions.

Building Smart Cities With AI: It is estimated that 70% of India’s GDP will come from urban India. As per the National Programme on AI, technology (AI) would be the core of all smart city systems. The government sees Generative AI helping citizens, transforming government services, empowering government employees, and optimising various processes.

As part of the smart cities mission, key use cases for AI and IoT deployments have been identified as public safety, environment, infrastructure, and transportation.

The Era Of Smart Manufacturing: In a labour-centric market like India, generative AI has its own advantages. A ChatGPT-based bot can be used to process natural language input from users, such as voice commands, and translate them into actionable instructions for manufacturing robots or machines.

Based on their feedback, the government plans to integrate ChatGPT into other services as well. The government may use generative or conversational AI to enhance the services it provides to its citizens.

India Stands Its Ground Despite Global Warning Bells 

Downplaying the need to regulate AI in India for now, Rajeev Chandrasekhar, MoS, MeitY, on April 5, 2023, stated in the Parliament that the technologies related to generative AI are evolving, and, currently, there is no specific regulation. However, the development and deployment of AI is governed by laws and policies related to privacy, data protection, intellectual property, and cyber security.

However, given the immense power and capability that generative AI offers, including the future possibility of replacing human intervention and the risks pertaining to data privacy, experts believe India needs to have a law to regulate AI.

Last month, Zoho cofounder Sridhar Vembu wrote an open letter, which was co-signed by the former NITI Aayog vice-chairman Rajiv Kumar and cofounder of iSPIRIT Foundation Sharad Sharma, urging the country’s policymakers, academicians and other stakeholders to debate the impact of AI on India.

Noting that AI could put millions of jobs at risk overnight, Vembu stated that adopting new technologies such as AI, without appropriate safeguards, could cause ‘unprecedented disruption of the existing social order’.

He added that the emerging tech could also be the ‘harbinger of chaotic and potentially catastrophic consequences for humanity’.

Vembu’s open letter came hot on the heels of tech experts, from across the globe, joining hands to urge AI labs to ‘immediately pause’ their work on technologies stronger than GPT-4 for at least six months.

In their open letter, the experts urged for regulation of AI technologies, citing ‘profound risks’ to society and humanity. The letter was signed by big names in the tech world, including the CEO of Tesla and Twitter Elon Musk, tech giant Apple cofounder Stever Wozniak, and many researchers and developers.

Furthermore, many developers have pointed out how ChatGPT could be tricked into guiding how to make a bomb and execute other unlawful activities. Takashi Yoshikawa, a senior malware analyst at the Tokyo-based security firm Mitsui Bussan Secure Directions, said that he tricked ChatGPT to share ransomware codes, which it did.

Wary of what potential threats could be lurking in the shadows, many countries have started preparing to govern the generative AI space.

Take China, for example, which has already released its draft measures to govern the generative AI space. The country intends to regulate the segment by the end of 2023.

Meanwhile, Italy has already banned ChatGPT amid a probe into a suspected breach of Europe’s strict privacy regulations. The EU is expected to soon come up with strict rules around generative AI and so is the UK.

Additionally, the Office of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada has initiated an investigation into OpenAI, the company behind ChatGPT, following a complaint alleging the unauthorised collection, use, and disclosure of personal information.

Another noteworthy incident occurred in the US when Joshua Browder, CEO of DoNotPay, claimed on Twitter that ChatGPT helped him retrieve $200 of unclaimed money from the California Government.

Given the increasing number of misadventures in the world of AI, the question arises, can India take the risk of letting AI expand unabated in the absence of law —  something that many experts deem a concern?

Note: We at Inc42 take our ethics very seriously. More information about it can be found here.

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