Leap of faith: Adopting AI to level up

… mobility, education, smart cities and healthcare. In agriculture alone, startups are involved in direct farm-to-fork services (Ninjacart), terrain mapping …

The summit also brought out some pioneering work in unusual business areas of computer vision enabled security and telemetrics.The summit also brought out some pioneering work in unusual business areas of computer vision enabled security and telemetrics.The summit also brought out some pioneering work in unusual business areas of computer vision enabled security and telemetrics.

By Srinath Srinivasan

In the last two years, the Indian government has made far-reaching announcements in the field of technology and Artificial Intelligence (AI), which were also key highlights of the last two Union Budgets. Last week, the government took another initiative to promote AI. At the virtual global AI summit ‘Responsible AI for Social Empowerment (RAISE 2020)’, large corporations aligned with government bodies such as Niti Aayog to propagate new business segments resulting out of developments in AI and new skilling initiatives for the masses.

In terms of skilling, some ambitious plans were laid out by large corporations and the government. IBM CEO Arvind Krishna said through its ‘STEM for girls’ initiative, it is teaching nearly 80,000 girls across India on how to code and model AI algorithms. “Our goal is to reach 2,00,000 students by 2022,” he said. According to him to, AI is also capable of improving learning outcomes and student-teacher ratio in classrooms. “We can automate marking and record-keeping for teachers in a way that it will save a lot of time and effort,” he added. “Further, in July, we collaborated with the Central Board of Secondary Education to integrate AI in high school curriculum.”

Atul Rai, CEO, Staqu.

Today there is a need to make AI an interdisciplinary practice to make it all the more meaningful. Abhishek Singh, CEO, MyGov, president & CEO, NeGD, and MD & CEO, Digital India Corporation, said, “Research into AI happens in silos. We have an approach to help create interconnections so researchers can benefit from each other’s work and build upon existing research. To this end, the government has developed a national portal for AI which is collating all ongoing research in AI. We also realise the criticality of having an AI-ready workforce. MeitY therefore plans to train 400,000 youth on AI, to create a base of AI-trained professionals.”

Arvind Krishna, CEO, IBM.

The numbers put out by organisations such as IBM suggest that the world is only 4% into the AI journey and it will unlock $15.7 trillion in productivity by 2030. Today, in India the applications are concentrated on the services side of supply chain for sectors such as agriculture, finance, mobility, education, smart cities and healthcare. In agriculture alone, startups are involved in direct farm-to-fork services (Ninjacart), terrain mapping with drone tech (Skylark, Huviair), connecting government services, equipment procurement (CropIn, EM3 Agri) for farmers, all as SaaS services.

Nikhil Prasad Maroli, COO, Roadmetrics

When it comes to large corporations, IBM has partnered with Karnataka state government and Niti Aayog to develop ‘precision’ farming services using AI and weather data. The platform was developed by IBM’s Indian engineers. Further, to make public procurement more efficient using AI, it has partnered with Government e-Marketplace (GeM) to set up a centre of excellence in India.

What makes India a crucible for business opportunities in AI is the abundance of data, the business potential of Indian entreprises and a young STEM learning population. The summit also brought out some pioneering work in unusual business areas of computer vision enabled security and telemetrics.

For instance, Staqu, with its proprietary AI technology JARVIS, has so far helped security forces across eight Indian states to identify 3,000-plus criminals and bust eight terrorist modules. “Currently, our undivided attention is on the Covid-19 crisis. JARVIS can visually analyse if the standard operating procedures set by organisations are adhered to by their people, without having any biases or lags, from a safe distance,” says Atul Rai, CEO of Staqu.

Again, Roadmetrics works on gathering road and street level data inaccessible via aerial view by using AI to map potholes, signals, pedestrian crossings and other variable elements. “Recently, we worked with Tata Group’s JUSCO in Jamshedpur where we provided traffic and terrain information to its logistics teams,” said Nikhil Prasad Maroli, COO, Roadmetrics.

It will be interesting to see how the government sustains the steam on tech initiatives like this and how the businesses in the country keep up with them.

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