The Government of India has started addressing the need to harness the potential of Artificial Intelligence (AI). It is a welcome move considering the development made by China in this field. On 20 July 2017, China’s State Council released “A Next Generation Artificial Intelligence Development Plan” that dwells on the national blueprint for development of AI capabilities with broad goals till 2030 by when it intends to “lead the world”.
On 25 August 2017, the Ministry of Commerce and Industry constituted the “Task Force on Artificial Intelligence (AI) for India’s Economic Transformation”.
In October 2017, media reported that the Ministry of Electronics and IT has set up an internal expert committee to advise it on the policy for AI. The expert committee was to advise the government on the most appropriate technologies that could be implemented. The main focus of the ministry is to strengthen cyber security with the use of AI. The committee members include representatives from the Ministry of Home Affairs and the Ministry of Finance.
It was also simultaneously reported that the government has drawn up a seven-point strategy that would form the framework for the national plan on use of AI. The strategy includes developing methods for human machine interactions, ensuring safety and security of AI systems, creating a competent workforce for AI research and development, developing standards and benchmarks for evaluation of AI systems, and holistic understanding of the implications of AI (ethical, legal, and societal).
The Finance Minister, in his speech on the annual budget, indicated that the NITI Aayog will create a roadmap for the national AI effort. A committee has been formed under the Chairmanship of NITI Aayog Vice Chairman Rajiv Kumar to create this roadmap on research and development. The committee is reported to have had its first meeting in January this year. It consists of members from government, academia and industry. The other members include NITI Aayog member VK Saraswat, former NASSCOM Head Kiran Karnik, Mohandas Pai, Pankaj Jalote of IIIT (Delhi), Pulak Ghosh of IIM (Bangalore), Secretary (Biotechnology), Secretary (Science & Technology) and members from industry.
Once the programme is finalised by the NITI Aayog, the government will offer financial incentives to undertake development of AI applications across sectors like banking, education, health and transportation. The financial allocation under the Atal Innovation Mission, in which ₹ 200 crore has been allocated in FY 2018-19, will be used to fund the programme.
Meanwhile, on 02 February 2018, the Ministry of Defence Production constituted a Task Force to study the future use of AI in defence applications. The Task Force is headed by Tata Sons Chairman N Chandrasekaran. The 17 member Task Force members include National Cyber Security Coordinator Gulshan Rai, Managing Director of Bharat Electronics Ltd., and representatives from the Army, Navy, Air Force, ISRO, Atomic Energy Commission, IISc (Bangalore), IIT (Bombay) and IIT (Madras). AI has the potential to have a transformative impact on national security and provide military superiority. The Task Force will study the issues regarding strategic implications of AI with regard to national security in a global context and provide recommendations to leverage the indigenous talent pool of engineers.