View from India: Making AI solutions affordable and accessible
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Artificial intelligence (AI) has the potential to unleash 130 million new jobs worldwide in the next decade. India aims to become a nation of job creators in the spectrum of AI.
Looking to the future, AI will soon be ahead of other technologies when it comes to innovation. NITI Aayog, the policy think tank of the Government of India has launched a flagship initiative to promote a culture of innovation and entrepreneurship in the country.
Titled 'Atal Innovation Mission (AIM)', its goal is to develop new programmes and policies for fostering innovation in different sectors of the economy, besides providing a platform and collaborative opportunities for different stakeholders. One of its initiatives is 'Atal Tinkering Laboratories' (ATLs). This is a workspace in schools that encourages young minds to use innovative skills to give a definition to their ideas.
“We’ve launched around 2,500 Tinkering Labs across schools in India, where do-it-yourself (DIY) kits have been distributed to 2.5 million students. This year, in partnership with Nasscom we’ve introduced AI modules for students from standard VI to XII,” said Ramanathan Ramanan, mission director, ATAL Innovation. As part of AI modules, school students execute projects enabled by an app developer module. It carries the promise of a game-changing learning in education. The vision is that every school in India should have access to Tinkering Labs.
An environment for deep-tech AI learning needs to be created right from school age onwards. By doing so, students will be exposed to AI and can align their career goals accordingly. This will help the country to build an AI workforce, which will give India a solid platform in verticals like defence, aerospace, fintech, manufacturing and biotechnology. State governments have chalked out various courses to promote AI among students.
On its part, the Government of Karnataka (GoK) has launched an exclusive Centre of Excellence (CoE) in data sciences and artificial intelligence (AI) in Bangalore.
The Telangana University and the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) Hyderabad has a full-time B.Tech degree in AI. IIT Hyderabad is the first Indian institute to create a B.Tech programme in this field. “Specialised AI courses are being offered in engineering colleges. It is also intended to introduce a Minors course in AI in these colleges. Corridors of research in various disciplines have opened up at the Osmania University,” said Navin Mittal, commissioner, college education and technical education, Government of Telangana.
Apart from universities, Ed-Tech companies are also vying for a slice of the AI pie. A growing trend is that Ed-tech companies are partnering with engineering institutions. This is because Ed-tech companies work in the online space. As there are no constraints of physical space, these companies can accommodate any number of students. The partnership with engineering institutions appears to be symbiotic.
“Ed-tech companies leverage the core knowledge of engineering institutions and add a layer of contemporary trends to make the course relevant. To that extent, it is customised depending on the market requirements. Indian Ed-tech companies may be the next hot destination for its course-ready offerings that scale up the employable quotient of students,” explained Arjun Mohan, CEO, UpGrad.
An online higher education company, UpGrad focuses on the training courses for cutting-edge technologies: AI courses are part of the portfolio. “Today we are moving into a stage when devices and machines will generate terabytes of data. The quantum of data generated is so much that it may not be possible to take manual decisions all the time. Machine learning and AI are leveraged to analyse user behavior and deduce a pattern which makes it easier for taking decisions,” pointed out Mohan.
It’s essential to scale up research labs in India, both in terms of numbers as well as the areas in which research is done. The country requires data-driven solutions for people, so AI needs to be integrated into every innovation. The concern is to create AI talent for innovation and one of the means is through collaboration between the industry and startups.
There are several AI-based startups that are working in diverse areas. This includes Niramai Health Analytix, a deep-tech startup that specialises in breast health screening. The test is conducted without physical contact. “The way it works is that the temperature on the chest is measured to detect early-stage of breast cancer. This is followed by a thorough analysis. A radiologist-certified report is generated within 24 hours of screening,” said Geetha Manjunath, founder and CEO. This year, the Bangalore-based startup has initiated home-screening service for breast health.
Niramai’s patented product Thermalytix is portable and uses AI and a high-resolution thermal-sensing device. 'Software with Machine Intelligence for Life Enhancement (SMILE) is its cancer-screening tool.
Another example is Tinkerly, a Jaipur-based STEM-learning online/offline solutions provider. Its aim is to make learning fun and interesting while also promoting skills that will be required for jobs of the future. “Our STEM Educational Toys, including the first of their kind AI/machine learning proprietary toys, are designed for children to learn to solve problems,” said Sharad Bansal, co-founder and CEO. Tinkerly helps schools to set up STEM Labs. It also has an open-source STEM learning mobile app called ‘Lets Tinker.’
In a nutshell, AI solutions should be affordable and accessible and everyone has a role to play to build AI talent in the country. Just as the IT landscape of India has put the country on the global map, the Indian AI ecosystem should make a mark globally.
These discussions were part of the 'Xperience AI Virtual Summit', conducted by the National Association of Software and Services Companies (NASSCOM) in partnership with the Telangana Government.
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