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India’s AI Policy

Updated: Oct 9, 2023

Artificial Intelligence, since its advent, has been a hot topic of debate among technocrats. Some are in awe of its wonders and consider it a utopian solution for all our existing and upcoming problems, while some experts caution against it as a Pandora’s box destined to create countless challenges for mankind.


Illustration by The Geostrata


While the impact of AI is still to be fully unraveled as it is in a developing stage, it has surely alarmed humanity about the complete transformation that is bound to happen in society.


Researchers and scholars are actively analysing its risks and impacts on the economy, education, privacy, security, etc. While governments across the world are focused on designing a framework to regulate the development and deployment of artificial intelligence in the most healthy way possible.

The European Union has issued ethics guidelines and the EU AI Act for trustworthy AI based on securing fundamental rights. Similarly, the US government issued an executive order in 2019 directing federal stakeholders to frame policies to promote the development of AI in accordance with civil liberties. Singapore has also updated its Personal Data Protection Act (PDPA) to accommodate the new privacy issues raised by artificial intelligence.


While India has not established any guidance framework specific to AI, various ministries, research bodies, and think tanks, as well as NITI Aayog, have formulated a special AI task force to identify the challenges raised by AI in India. These institutions have published research reports strongly advocating the need for a National Policy for AI.


CHALLENGES IN INDIA


Like every other technology, the impact of AI depends on its usage and the environment

in which it is implemented. India, being a developing nation, experiences its fair share of unique opportunities and challenges in harnessing the full potential of artificial intelligence.


While the country still experiences infrastructure gaps, a lack of consumer awareness, and research disparities, continuous efforts are being made to bridge the urban-rural divide and build a robust infrastructure with advanced technologies such as data storage facilities, high-speed internet, and advanced computing for the effective and inclusive deployment of AI. Further, through various capacity-building and educational initiatives, the government is addressing the scarcity of skilled and trained professionals in AI-related fields such as data science and machine learning.


Another area where AI is presumed to have a significant impact is the economy and employment. According to a report by Accenture, AI can add USD 957 billion, or 15 percent of current gross value added, to India’s economy in 2035.

It is also estimated that around 20 million new jobs will be created in different sectors by 2025 in India because of artificial intelligence. While these numbers look optimistic, they are favourable mostly for the skilled workforce. India is actively working to bridge its skill gap and counter the potential risk of an employment gap in the workforce leading to the creation of a new kind of "haves" and "have nots".


India also needs to safeguard its digital ecosystem from the growing security and privacy issues raised by AI. AI systems often rely on vast amounts of data and personal information such as name, address, medical records, and financial information to train their algorithms; this data is mostly used to improve performance and the consumer experience. However, with the increasing opacity of AI, often termed the "black box" nature of AI, India’s vulnerability to data breaches, cyber fraud, privacy issues, and other ethical threats

has been increasing.


Another major challenge that has emerged due to AI advancement is in the field of national security and defence. Cyberwarfare is becoming the most lethal weapon used by countries to attack enemy nations. India is not untouched by these, as evident by the many cyberattacks on government agencies and institutions, including the recent cyberattacks on AIIMS, CERT-In, and the CoWin data breach.


Overall, while India faces few obstacles on its AI development journey, there is also a sense of optimism for the boundless opportunities that AI has for India. A collective effort from all the stakeholders and a strong and comprehensive AI policy will help India realise its true potential in the field of AI.


INDIA'S AI POLICY


The country requires an AI policy that is indigenous and exclusively made to minimise the unique risks that AI poses for India and develop a sustainable AI ecosystem that benefits all the stakeholders in the country.


India’s AI policy should reflect the principles of inclusivity and security while also ensuring the effective deployment and growth of artificial intelligence.

Through its AI policy, India aims to enhance its research and development capacities in the field of artificial intelligence. Hence, fostering collaborative research with other nations and promoting public-private partnerships to improve the scalability of AI in India can be one of the focus areas of the AI policy.


Further, under the AI policy, the establishment of dedicated research centres such as the NSAI, NCAI, and CAIR should be promoted. Research and development initiatives should follow a bottom-up approach, concentrating on creating a secure and robust infrastructure for the effective deployment of AI so that it penetrates India’s remote areas too.


Sectoral-based research on AI deployment in various sectors like agriculture, education, health, and transport should also be focused upon to analyse their productivity and lags in different sectors.


Social inclusion and equality should also be equally stressed. The opaque nature of AI can result in discrimination and unequal treatment of people. Hence, the AI policy should have

a targeted focus on creating awareness and skill-building among the national minorities, including rural communities, the disabled, and women. Further, special emphasis should

be given to increasing the presence of underrepresented communities in the tech sector.

This will not only ensure holistic development but will also prevent the algorithms and AI-driven solutions from being baised based on societal prejudices.


The policy also needs to briefly address the ethical, data regulation, and privacy issues posed by AI. It should entail a legal framework that establishes clear guidelines for all the stakeholders, i.e., both users and developers.

India currently does not have overarching legislation specific to AI. The AI policy should clearly lay down regulations for the ethical problems caused by direct human-machine interaction. This includes defining the level of transparency that AI systems such as

chatbots, facial recognition technology, surveillance, and data processing tools should be maintained while dealing with consumers.


This should be done in accordance with a risk-dependent approach, i.e., based on the use case, the greater the potential for harm an AI technology has, the more stringent and greater the regulatory intervention it should be subjected to.


Lastly, the policy should mandate the formation of an overarching advisory body that comprehensively supervises both the development and deployment of artificial intelligence. It should comprise members from multiple disciplines such as IT, ethics, the environment, law, etc. The body should also have a grievance redressal mechanism under its ambit.


Additionally, the proposed body should work in close cooperation with all the stakeholders and leverage the learnings from the AI frameworks implemented by many states and sectors in India, such as the AI policy identified by the governments of Telangana and Tamil Nadu and AI initiatives implemented by SEBI, the Indian Council of Medical Research, and NDHM.


AI has phenomenally proven its efficiency in many avenues. India has rightly acknowledged this potential and is leveraging its advancement in critical fields such as education, governance, health, agriculture, defence, and much more.

Through initiatives such as YUVAi and many e-learning programs, the government is focusing on skill-building through education. Further, AI is being used to promote sustainable agriculture with data-driven farming practices and precise crop and weather monitoring systems.


The integration of AI in the health sector has also proved beneficial with new innovations and more efficient and affordable healthcare services. AI also plays an instrumental role in promoting digital governance through state-of-the-art DPI platforms like Digital Aadhar, Digilocker, UPI, etc.


CONCLUSION


Despite the challenges, AI, with its innumerable benefits, is the future of development. India’s young demography and a developing ecosystem make it a hub for innovation and attract major investments, especially in the field of technology. However, there is a significant need to understand the potential risks of AI, which can be harmful to Indian consumers and developers.


Therefore, with a determined approach and concerted efforts, India should continue making strides in developing an AI ecosystem with social empowerment and inclusion as its foundational stones. The future of AI in India should be to transform lives, empower communities, and drive sustainable development.

 

BY TANISHA

TEAM GEOSTRATA

info@thegeostrata.com

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