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NITI Aayog to develop index that ranks AI adoption in India

The National Institution for Transforming India (NITI Aayog), which is the country’s policy commission, is planning to develop an AI readiness index. The index will rank Indian states on their ability to implement AI for the delivery of public services, adopt new AI applications, and to leverage AI innovative potential.

According to reports, the commission’s AI index is one of several scales that rank health, education, and agriculture in Indian states based on certain criteria. Although the indicators for the AI index are yet to be finalised, it could consider the state’s initiatives on AI, the digital skills among residents in the region, the degree of innovation among existing start-ups, and data capacity.

A government official told reporters that the commission, over the last few years, has been pushing for the adoption of AI and the next natural step is to assess the outcomes of states’ initiatives on AI. Hence, the need to develop an index.

The index will identify challenges for each state in the adoption of AI and recommend possible areas of improvement.

NITI Aayog is moving towards outcome-based monitoring and has in the past ranked states on key social indicators, in line with its role of promoting competitive and cooperative federalism.

NITI Aayog is working to increase government funding for AI and cloud computing. In fact, as reported earlier, NITI Aayog announced it is pushing for the government to invest IN ₹7,500 crores (about US $1.7 billion) for the development of a cloud computing platform called AIRAWAT.

With the investment, over the next three years, a high-level taskforce will oversee the development and implementation of the project. The agency 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.

These AI initiatives are 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 Indian government defined a national policy on AI in a discussion paper, which 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.

It proposed a two-tiered framework for promoting AI research. This included the creation of Centres of Research Excellence in AI (COREs), which will be academic research hubs, and International Centres for Transformational Artificial Intelligence, which will be industry-led.

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