Artificial interlligence reshaping lives, can bring societal transformation if acted upon

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Published: February 25, 2019 3:23:58 AM

For AI to make deeper inroads to address the societal problems, universities should be encouraged to take a lead role in researching and arriving at unique solutions.

AI has the potential to add 7 billion or 15% of India’s current gross value in 2035.

Artificial Intelligence (AI) has started to occupy centre stage in businesses, reshaping our lives. AI tools are ensuring fundamental changes in the way we learn, think, behave, respond and interact. ‘AI for AI’ is an emerging field of research full of promise and anticipation. As per Accenture Report of 2018, AI has the potential to add $957 billion or 15% of India’s current gross value in 2035. In this context, the impact AI is beginning to have on societal transformation and its potential to address the socio economic challenges make an interesting study.

Enhancing agricultural income through choice of crops, pest control, water management and better predictability of weather and soil conditions aimed at farm productivity could be achieved with the help of AI in conjunction with robotics, analytics and Internet of Things (IoT). The AI Sowing App developed by Microsoft in collaboration with ICRISAT is a good example of how farmers are able to get timely information on their feature phones without having to invest in sensors and how they are benefitting with the advance intimation of weather conditions and the ideal timing for sowing, thus enhancing their farm yield.

Gobasco is a solution aimed at improving supply chain efficiency. The solution is built around real time data analytics on data streams from multiple sources across the country that could overcome the credit default problems and suggest high margin pipelines, thus enhancing the profitability of farmers. Water shortage and providing clean drinking water to masses is a major challenge being faced by the country. As per NITI Aayog, it is estimated that 100 million people would have no access to drinking water by 2030. In addition to various efforts being initiated for conservation of water and cleaning and storage of water, AI powered smarter water management systems like digital flowmeters being implemented in Surat would help in tracking and optimising water consumption.

Digital health support platforms supported by AI systems can help in harnessing the data that are already available at the primary health centres and could propose preventive methods that could avoid expensive treatments. The recent initiative of the government on health insurance when supported by AI tools would prove to be a boon to the citizens of the country.

For AI to make deeper inroads to address the societal problems, universities should be encouraged to take a lead role in researching and arriving at unique solutions. We need solutions for supporting physically challenged citizens, particularly those with visual or hearing challenges, senior citizens with mobility limitations or those needing companionship, providing access to content to diverse people in the country in their own languages and providing affordable quality primary healthcare as well as emergency care. We would need to build ecosystems that are centred around the universities where NGOs, specialists, startups and government agencies supporting the societal needs are able to collaborate so that the talent developed at the leading educational institutions could be harnessed and funding, research and new tools or product development efforts could be coordinated for the targetted goals.

We need a concerted action to build awareness and skills right from the school level onwards as has been witnessed in China which is at the forefront of investment in AI that includes the plan to create an enviable pool of talent. As has been indicated by various reports, in order to realise the potential advantage of over 1 percentage point increase to the GDP by 2035 resulting from AI related initiatives, the time for action is now.

-The writer is chairperson, Global Talent Track, a corporate training solutions company

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