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National Stakeholder Workshop: Empowering India’s AI Ecosystem

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India’s Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (MeitY) in collaboration with the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) South Asia Regional Office convened the National Stakeholder Workshop on Safe, Trusted, and Ethical AI. This pivotal event came shortly after the Government of India’s approval of the IndiaAI Mission, a groundbreaking initiative backed by an investment exceeding Rs 10,000 crore aimed at strengthening India’s artificial intelligence ecosystem.

Image credits: Press Information Bureau

AI is projected to contribute nearly US$ 500 billion to India’s GDP by 2025, with significant advancements anticipated in healthcare, financial services, and telecommunications. The IndiaAI Mission, spearheaded by MeitY, aims to drive technological self-reliance through key components such as the IndiaAI Compute Capacity, IndiaAI Innovation Centre (IAIC), IndiaAI Datasets Platform, IndiaAI Application Development Initiative, IndiaAI FutureSkills, IndiaAI Startup Financing, and Safe & Trusted AI.

The comprehensive agenda included sessions on AI fundamentals, the ethical dimensions of AI, UNESCO’s role in AI ethics, and the current AI policy landscape in India. By enhancing understanding and preparing for AI-related challenges and opportunities, the workshop sought to establish a foundation for informed policy development that promotes equitable and sustainable AI adoption nationwide.

The workshop served as a vital forum for discussing the integration of safe, trusted, and ethical AI into national and state-level strategies. It underscored the importance of aligning AI deployment with public welfare and international standards. The agenda featured extensive dialogues on safe and trusted AI, its ethical implications, and societal impacts, facilitated through panel discussions and breakout group sessions.

Prof. Ajay Kumar Sood, Principal Scientific Adviser to the Government of India highlighted India’s balanced approach to AI, highlighting initiatives like the IndiaAI Mission aimed at fostering AI development and adoption. He lauded UNESCO’s global efforts in promoting AI ethics, particularly the UNESCO Recommendation on the Ethics of AI.

Abhishek Singh, Additional Secretary, MeitY elaborated on the government’s ethical framework for AI, stressing the importance of building safe, trusted AI systems that avoid user harm while promoting innovation and mitigating risks.

Tim Curtis, UNESCO Representative to India, underscored AI’s potential to advance the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) while acknowledging the significant ethical and practical risks if deployed without proper frameworks. He reaffirmed UNESCO’s commitment to supporting the Indian government in integrating ethical considerations into national and state-level AI strategies and programmes, ensuring adherence to international norms outlined in the UNESCO Recommendation on the Ethics of AI.

NASSCOM President Debjani Ghosh stresses the need for humans to uphold ethical standards and extend these principles to AI. She highlighted the importance of equity and inclusion, warning against a closed system where a few companies control AI.

The UNESCO Recommendation on the Ethics of Artificial Intelligence, adopted unanimously by all 193 UNESCO Member States in November 2021, remains the first international standard-setting instrument on AI ethics. It prioritises the protection of human rights and dignity, emphasising transparency, fairness, and the critical role of human oversight in AI systems.

UNESCO continues to collaborate with MeitY to translate the core values and principles of the Global Recommendation into concrete policy actions. These efforts encompass data governance, environmental and ecosystem considerations, gender issues, education and research, and health and social wellbeing, aiming to ensure that AI development aligns with ethical standards and public welfare.

Collaborative initiatives are significant for India’s journey towards responsible AI development. Critical discussions and mutual efforts pave the way for a future where AI technologies are deployed ethically and sustainably, benefiting society at large.

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