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Charting India’s AI trajectory: Insights from World Economic Forum

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By Abhas Ricky, Chief Strategy Officer, Cloudera

AI adoption is accelerating globally. According to a report by McKinsey, one-third of respondents reported regular utilisation of generative AI (GenAI) across various functions, indicating that 60 percent of AI-adopting organisations incorporate gen AI technologies. The same has been highlighted at this year’s 54th World Economic Forum (WEF) in Davos where AI wasn’t just a fringe topic – it was the protagonist.

AI in Business: Potentials and Drawbacks

One of the themes of the forum was ‘AI as a Driving Force for the Economy and Society’ which shed light on how much potential AI holds to help create and foster new business opportunities, forge stronger partnerships, find new avenues for dialogue, and achieve more efficient use of emerging technologies. From climate action to economic development, discussions revolved around how AI can be harnessed to solve pressing global problems, but also included a healthy dose of caution for its potential pitfalls.

The pitfalls include data quality and privacy non-compliance, expertise shortage, and high costs for hiring data scientists and AI engineers. Additionally, the opacity of AI systems raises ethical concerns, necessitating transparency in usage and mitigation of biases for fair decision-making. Therefore, to overcome these challenges, businesses must understand the purpose of this disruptive technology.

GenAI is a workforce productivity multiplier, not a replacement
In terms of productivity and efficiency, no technology has had the potential of impacting all jobs across
all industries like Gen AI. It can automate or augment a significant portion of tasks across ALL industries
and functional areas such as IT and Finance. At the World Economic Forum, a leader from Mckinsey highlighted that companies using AI experienced a 2.5x higher Total Shareholder Return growth rate vs.
those that did not.

Contrary to concerns about job displacement, GenAI will likely enhance rather than eliminate jobs. less
than half of the impacted tasks are expected to be automated, For example only 35% (of 72%) in the financial services sector and 32% (of 73%) in the IT function. Therefore, while GenAI will have a significant impact, it may not drastically alter the job landscape, envisioning a future with enhanced capabilities and abstraction.

Reskilling is the key to accelerating the adoption of GenAI
In discussions on the future of GenAI, while it promises potential, there’s a long way ahead to realize its
benefits. Experts predicted that 50% of current work activities won’t be automated until 2045 and that’s even a full decade sooner than predictions made before the release of ChatGPT. Currently, 70% of companies are in exploration mode in terms of Generative AI adoption while only 19% are in pilot or production. To accelerate AI adoption, several CEOs stressed the need for a widespread reskilling of their workforces to drive usage and see productivity gains. One referenced survey found that executives expect to retrain 40% of their employees over the next three years as a result of implementing AI tools.

A lack of internal expertise still remains the number one blocker to deploying AI solutions. In addition to
this, companies should collaborate with governments to reform basic education to meet future AI demands.

Trust is everything, especially with AI
The overarching theme for this year’s WEF focused on “Rebuilding Trust”, though the topic extends
beyond fighting corruption in public institutions. Trust is critical to AI. Without trust in AI and its outputs,
our goal of transforming economies with AI will be hard to achieve.

The foundation of this trust starts with high-fidelity, trusted, and secure input data. We must center security and compliance when developing AI applications to combat these concerns. Adoption will naturally accelerate when leaders can trust that AI applications are secure and compliant. No company can risk missing out on the productivity gains that AI offers. As Sam Altman said at Davos, “[GenAI] will change the world much less than we all think and it will change jobs much less than we all think. We will all operate at a… higher level of abstraction… [and] have access to a lot more capability.”

India’s AI journey and progress took the spotlight at WEF and was center stage at various bustling technology discussions. The country’s unwavering commitment to driving innovation and fostering growth is evident in the many success stories and examples shared at the forum. As India doubles down on its pursuit of digital transformation, its investments and strategic initiatives in AI and related fields, such as IndiaAI mission’s focus towards responsible AI deployment to deliver safe & trusted AI, will empower the country to realize its tremendous potential.

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