union budget Big Data AI India

Finally! The Finance Minister’s union budget 2018 speech had something for the techies of the future. As per the announcement, the NITI Aayog will initiate a national program to direct efforts in Artificial Intelligence, and the Department of Science and Technology will launch a Mission on Cyber-Physical Systems to support the establishment of centers of excellence for research, training, and skilling in robotics, artificial intelligence, digital manufacturing, big data analysis, quantum communication, internet of things, etc.
This may sound rhetoric and myopic to the technology world. One may ask if it isn’t too late already. But what it can do for India and Indians is what will eventually matter. The real question to ask is if this step will enhance the government’s understanding of the potential that the technologies of the digital economy hold? Will we be able to keep up with world leaders who are driven by AI in Industrie 4.0 in every possible aspect? Or is it just another allocation that will remain unutilized or under-utilized?
We can all agree that data, AI, and robotics will shape how public services will be delivered in future. Other progressive countries are moving in this direction. For example, Dubai heavily uses big data and robotics to manage its city’s traffic, Europe is using big data to manage its power consumption, and USA is using it to enhance its traffic, security architecture, healthcare, and energy. Japan is planning to use AI for its pension investment scheme, while UK has its own AI committee developing ethical standards for using AI. China is going all out by using AI to benefit its companies, government initiatives, and military. So, let’s analyze how India can utilize Big data, Robotics, and AI.
Government Schemes – Big data alone can enhance our capabilities in identifying the right beneficiaries of government schemes. It can help us predict the right demand at a hyperlocal level. Hence, it enables our administration to design solutions that are region-specific. This will transform our current one size fits all approach. For example, analyzing Aadhar data can help us identify pockets of unemployment which can, in turn, help the government to device employment programs based on regional demography stopping potential migration to cities! This is just one example of the wonders Big Data analysis can do for India.
Manufacturing and Commerce – Currently, the government administration has a large human interface that results in huge expenditure in payment of wages. Utilization of robotics in public delivery systems, like PDS shops, has the potential to eliminate not only leakages but also corruption. Robotics research can also do wonders for the in-house development of automated production lines. Currently, robotic imports for manufacturing use a lot of foreign exchange. This cost can be minimized if we can excel in developing state-of-the-art technology that can also augment the Make in India mission. Robotics research and development is also essential for enhancing the defense capabilities of our country.
Banking – Our public service delivery suffers from leakages that cost huge losses for the exchequer. That said, efficient public service delivery is inevitable for the elimination of ills like poverty, unemployment, and corruption that plague our nation. Few people know this but the government used Artificial Intelligence extensively during, and shortly after, Demonetization to identify and flag accounts that had the maximum black money deposits. Once several accounts were flagged, AI and machine learning were used to further find patterns and trends in these accounts to flag other accounts. For example, a person owning a two-wheeler is not likely to have lakhs of rupees to deposit in the bank. Hence, the study of income, expenditure, multiple accounts information has suddenly made it very easy for the government to track fraud accounts and corruption cases.
Healthcare – Another important area to benefit in the Indian context is healthcare. India is one of the top 3 countries with the most number of diabetic people. There is an alarming rise in the number of cancer and AIDS cases in India. To provide superior healthcare to the world’s second-largest population through a network of public hospitals, the government has a large health data repository that is helping it reach people in the deepest corners of the country. Simple data like the address of a patient allows the government to understand the trend of diseases in a given locality and take steps. A very basic example would be the deployment of resources to a particular area to control the number of dengue, chikungunya, and malaria cases. Population data, geographical data, healthcare data combined together can be used to identify areas that face a shortage of medicine, eliminate leakages, and provide genuine products in a market plagued with duplicate or adulterated medicines.
Cyber Attacks – India is the fastest going economy but there is clearly a lot of catching up to do. Considering half of our population is rural, making them a part of this digital revolution seems like an almost impossible task. Sadly, it leaves them at a greater risk of being manipulated. A recent example like that of bank employees fraudulently making rural people join mutual fund schemes, etc. to meet their own personal targets, begs the question if we are ready. Internet theft and cyber attacks are a widespread menace that can only be dealt at the larger levels. AI is helping us not only combat these attacks but also avoid them all together by predicting them before they occur by monitoring social media chatter and data flow patterns on the internet.
Town planning – AI systems are currently driving the way we imagine things. From product design to city planning, AI systems provide the capability to imagine things close to reality. They further augment the capabilities to assess and eliminate problems at the design phase itself. We are today investing heavily in building infrastructure for future India, AI can help us make it truly world class and molded specially for our special requirements.
Thanks to the human resources, India has the potential to become the AI leader of the world. But the demand-supply gap in the private sector is reminiscent of the difficulties that the government will face in developing and using AI capabilities. The next five years and our resolve to leverage AI will define where we stand globally. Fingers crossed!



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