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Indian policy commission pushes for US $1.7 billion investment in AI and Cloud

India’s policy commission, the NITI Aayog (the National Institution for Transforming India) has announced that it plans to create a framework for AI in India. Through a cabinet note, it said that it is pushing for 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.

A senior government official told reporters that the NITI Aayog has already circulated the note for consideration by the Expenditure Finance Committee, which is expected to take it up soon.

With the investment, over the next three years, a high-level taskforce 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, the cloud computing platform that can be accessed by anyone.

The selection of institutes and partners, to help develop the project, will be done based on guidelines that are currently being formulated. The task force that will monitor the AI project will be headed by a member of the NITI Aayog along with representatives from several ministries, states, and allied industry experts.

NITI Aayog’s CEO has written to several states and ministries urging them to identify key projects where AI can be adopted.

This AI initiative 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.

In 2018, the NITI Aayog defined a national policy on AI in a discussion paper, the National Strategy for Artificial Intelligence #AIforAll.

The paper identified five key areas where AI development could enable both growth and greater inclusion: healthcare, agriculture, education, urban-/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 will be academic research hubs, and International Centres for Transformational Artificial Intelligence, which will be industry-led.

NITI Aayog suggested several recommendations but is positioned as merely an “essential pre-read” intended to begin the conversation for what will be an evolving National Strategy for Artificial Intelligence.

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