Artificial intelligence (AI) is here to stay and there is no turning back in the march of this technology as many devices and services are already integrated with this advanced computing power. Globally, businesses and government are exploring how AI can be used to enhance their services, and India is also not far behind in adopting the advanced practices. The advent of handsets with internet connection is one of the key factors enabling technology to make deep inroads in India. Aadhaar is a classic example of AI technology with biometric recognition being one of the key facets of its application. PwC India in its recent survey report titled “Artificial Intelligence—Hype or Reality” found that 60% of respondents believe that AI will enable people to live richer lives and further socio-economic causes such as economic growth, health and education and cybersecurity. Sudipta Ghosh, partner and leader, Data and Analytics, PwC India said, “Indian businesses, the government and individuals have, in recent years, also seen multiple use cases of AI in various facets of life. Digital assistants, cab aggregators, biometric recognition, targeted advertisements and online recommendation engines are among the more common AI applications used today.”
The use of AI in India is already being witnessed as seen in automation of back-end processes or chatbots for customer service. “Government bodies have employed AI-powered applications such as machine leaning, image and speech recognition, robotics and more to bolster defence equipment and techniques,” Ghosh said. For now, the IT industry is getting the disrupted the most with AI but this disruption is also reaching out to the financial services and education segments. Accenture, in its recent report titled ‘Technology Vision 2018’ has stated that AI is about to become the company’s digital spokesperson. Moving beyond a back-end tool for the enterprise, AI is taking on more sophisticated roles within technology interfaces. AI is making every interface both simple and smart—and setting a high bar for how future interactions will work. It will act as the face of a company’s digital brand and a key differentiator—and become a core competency demanding C-level investment and strategy.
Accenture provided the example of Amazon Echo which has also been launched in India. Through the Echo and its AI assistant, Alexa, Amazon is managing not just shopping needs, but also the daily demands of busy lives. In fact, Amazon is so integrated into everyday living that new apartment complexes are building dedicated Amazon Lockers into their designs; and people now trust the company with physical access to their homes, letting couriers make deliveries when no one is around via Amazon Key and its smart lock system. The PwC survey on India found that 87% of participants firmly believe that AI elements being used in their daily lives, such as digital assistants, help them save time while performing various activities.
According to Accenture, as AI becomes more widely integrated into society, it will have direct influence and impact on everything from financial decisions, to health, to criminal justice, and beyond. As these impacts expand, the business responsibilities around raising an AI will only grow. Accenture provided the example of the European Parliament already considering giving machines or robots with AI capabilities a limited “e-personality,” comparable to the “corporate personality” that is used to assess liabilities or damages.
However, despite the benefits of AI, there are also certain concerns on the use of this technology which largely relate to data privacy and employment. According to PwC, a vast majority of participants agree that they have major concerns regarding data privacy to the point that it is near unanimous (93%), and that they are hesitant to even share medical results knowing that it could help provide some personalised knowledge about their health. However, they were more open (57%) to sharing less intrusive data such as their transportation patterns with AI applications if it gets them out of traffic. On the employment aspect, around 65% of the respondents agree that AI is likely to have a severe impact on employment in India. A majority believe that the benefits outweigh any employment concerns as AI will open up opportunities for people to do more value-added work. However, there several challenges for Indian enterprises in moving ahead with AI. The first and foremost is the paucity of talent as AI requires a different level of skillsets. Secondly, there is a lack of quality data which can hamper the development of new methodologies and, lastly, there is
also the cost factor in implementing these technologies.