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AI4Bharat platform to focus on India-centric challenges

The Indian Institute of Technology-Madras (IIT-M) is launching a platform, AI4Bharat, to build artificial intelligence (AI) solutions to address India-specific problems and to accelerate innovation.

According to an official release, the AI4Bharat platform will facilitate a community of AI professionals, students, domain experts, policymakers, and academics to collaborate and solve challenges in agriculture, healthcare, smart cities, digital India, and sustainability.

A key feature of the project is that it will focus on more India-centric issues. Much of the research in AI today is primarily driven by problems faced by western countries, one of the co-founders, Dr Pratyush Kumar, said. For instance, building autonomous cars takes priority over building systems that can monitor the condition of rural roads.

Its aim is “shifting the focus to India”. This is where domain experts and the government play an important role – identifying problems that are unique to India and can be dealt with by using AI technology. The project will use AI technology to, for example, translate content between Indian languages or build a system to help farmers get real-time information on their crops.

The platform is also open to students who will be trained in AI and related fields. Its first milestone is to create a community of 100 AI experts and 50 domain experts.

The co-founders, Dr Pratyush Kumar and Dr Mitesh M Khapra, have also co-founded the One Fourth Labs (incubated at the IIT Madras Research Park).

The initiative was designed to create and deliver affordable hands-on courses on AI and other similar areas. One Fourth Labs will work together with AI4Bharat to offer basic and advanced courses in AI at affordable prices – as low as IN ₹1,000 – for a five-month online course.

The platform will also work closely with the government.

The government has been trying to implement more AI-based systems in its core operations. In 2018, the country’s policy commission, NITI Aayog, defined a national policy on AI in a discussion paper, the National Strategy for Artificial Intelligence.

The paper identified five key areas where AI development could enable both growth and greater inclusion: healthcare, agriculture, education, smart city infrastructure, and transportation and mobility.

It also covered five obstacles to AI growth: lack of research expertise, absence of enabling data ecosystems, high resource cost and low awareness for adoption, lack of regulations around privacy and security, and absence of a collaborative approach to adoption and applications.

The paper proposed a two-tiered framework for promoting AI research. This included the creation of COREs, which are academic research hubs, and International Centres for Transformational Artificial Intelligence, which are industry-led.

Recently, NITI Aayog announced it wants the government to invest IN ₹7,500 crores (about US $1.7 billion) in funding for the development of a cloud computing platform called AIRAWAT.

As reported earlier, with the investment, over the next three years, a high-level task force will oversee the development and implementation of the project. The agency will present the cabinet note to India’s new government as it wants an institutional framework and a transparent policy in place for AI.

The proposal’s funding will be used to set up five institutes or centres of research excellence (CORE), twenty international centres for transformational AI (ICTAI), and AIRAWAT.

It is a part of the government’s aim to make India one of the world’s leading economy, with AI technology contributing largely to its GDP. AI adoption is expected to improve the delivery of services in sectors such as education, health, agriculture, urbanisation, and mobility.

It is estimated that AI will add US $957 billion to India’s GDP by 2035, boosting India’s annual growth by 1.3 percentage points.

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