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Why AI can be a game changer for India

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In the past, India has been fortunate to leapfrog generations in several technologies, such as the time when the country leapfrogged into the mobile wireless era. Legacy did not matter and another such opportunity beckons India once again. If executed well, a well thought out Artificial Intelligence strategy, can take India into a different league. For example, Accenture in a recent report, has highlighted that AI can boost India’s annual growth rate by 1.3 percentage points by 2035.

In sectors like healthcare, India clearly needs affordable and improved access. AI can be a huge differentiator as AI can be used for quickly identifying patterns from thousands of images in cases involving diseases such as cancer. This is significant as India sees more than 1 million new cases of cancer every day. NITI Aayog has already taken steps in this direction by trying to create a national repository of annotated and curated pathology images, which aided by AI will help in accurate, precise and comprehensive detection of cancer. Similar opportunities exist in agriculture (precision agriculture), education (reducing dropouts) and transportation (reducing congestion and improving traffic flow).

In the enterprise sector, AI has already been used to great effect. Almost every bank is using an AI-enabled chatbot to quickly resolve customer queries. Financial institutions can also use AI-based solutions to identify abnormal transactions. Some firms are also experimenting with AI-based techniques to detect cyber attacks early and reduce the time taken between detection and response.

That said, AI’s real potential can be seen from the examples of numerous AI focused startups, who are developing innovative solutions to solve traditional problems. For the casualty insurance sector, BRIDGEi2i Analytics Solutions, provides automated identification of defect type, damage counts and severity using drone images, as manual inspection of rooftops to assess damages is expensive. Similarly, Staqu’s AI-based solutions are used by the police forces of Rajasthan, Punjab and Uttarakhand to identify criminals in real time from CCTV footage. This has already helped the police bust eight terrorist modules and apprehending more than 400 gangsters.

Though India today does not have the required skillsets in AI, it is trying to catch up with the rest of the world through a renewed thrust. NITI Aayog has already submitted a detailed paper to the government, and has suggested creation of a multi-stakeholder marketplace for AI. As the NITI Aayog paper on AI notes, “India provides a perfect “playground” for enterprises and institutions globally to develop scalable solutions which can be easily implemented in the rest of the developing and emerging economies. Simply put, Solve for India means solve for 40% or more of the world.” Just as India became the software services powerhouse of the rest of the world, can India don the mantle of providing domain-based AI as a service to the globe?

While these are early days, the potential to be the AI garage of the world is bright and can change the country’s fortunes significantly.

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