Startups welcome national programme on AI

An Artificial Intelligent Robot head is learning and getting knowledge from computer

The startup city, Bengaluru, is already moving towards becoming an Artificial Intelligence (AI) hub with many startups focusing on AI, Machine Learning and Internet of Things (IoT).

With the announcement of a national programme on artificial intelligence by Finance Minister Piyush Goyal, startup founders are excited and say that they are looking forward to the national programme on artificial intelligence.

"The concept of employment is changing all over the world, now the employment generation is not confined merely to government services or factories. With job seekers becoming job creators, India has become the world’s second largest startup hub. In order to take the benefits of Artificial Intelligence and related technologies to the people, a National Programme on 'Artificial Intelligence' has been envisaged by our government," the finance minister said, adding that this would be catalysed by the establishment of the National Centre on Artificial Intelligence as a hub along with the Centres of Excellence.

Goyal further said that nine priority areas have been identified and also announced that a National Artificial Intelligence portal would be developed soon.

Ashish Nayyar, Managing Director, OakNorth India, a UK-based digital banking startup that focuses on lending to small and medium enterprises (SMEs), said the National Artificial Intelligence Portal would be a good step towards making Indian economy more FinTech inclusive.

He hoped that SME Finance would be one of the focus areas for leveraging ML and AI. "I think this portal’s framework would be based on a robust data infrastructure. A crucial sub-step would be ensuring financial data (both electronic and non-electronic), as applicable to SMEs, is housed in a robust data lake with adequate protection mechanisms. Once we create a viable data economy for SMEs, the ML and AI frameworks can be applied to meta data of such SMEs." Nayyar said.

The AI frameworks would then be able to generate insights on SME sectors that have no access to finance purely due to lack of bandwidth and ability to harness such data. "This, in turn, would ensure SME access to finance in our country is on par with other nations. With the portal coming up and streamlined data access (with protection), FinTech ecosystem would receive exponential growth," he added.

Siddharth Angrish, founder, Jiyyo.com, an AI-based patient care coordination platform, pointed out that a major task for an AI-based solution is data. "We hope that the government would work towards creating datasets, pertaining to major problems, available to the research community," he said.

Recently, Niti Aayog published a paper on National Strategy for Artificial Intelligence #AIFORALL, in which it was mentioned that a national AI strategy needs to be premised on a framework that is adapted to India’s unique needs and aspirations, while at the same time, is capable of achieving the country’s full potential of leveraging AI developments.

Accenture, in its recent AI research reports, provides a framework for evaluating the economic impact of AI for select G20 countries and estimates AI to boost India’s annual growth rate by 1.3 percentage points by 2035.

Niti Aayog said that China and UK estimate that 26% and 10% of their GDPs respectively in 2030 will be sourced from AI-related activities and businesses. "There has been a tremendous activity concerning AI policy positions and the development of an AI ecosystem in different countries over the last 18 to 24 months – the US published its AI report in December 2016; France published the AI strategy in January 2017; China published the AI strategy in July 2017; and the UK released its industrial strategy in November 2017," Aayog pointed out. 

AI will have a far-reaching impact not just on how we do business, but on our competitiveness as a nation, said Divy Shrivastava, co-founder and CEO of Nineleaps. "We have a lot of catch-ups to do, China is far ahead in terms of AI technologies, in some cases even getting ahead of the US. Also, availability of good AI/ML talent is also a challenge," he pointed out.

Rajnish Kumar, CTO and co-founder of ixigo, a travel tech platform, said the new national programme announced by the government on Artificial Intelligence is a futuristic one that will promote the use of technology and digitisation.

"The government’s efforts in providing the necessary AI support required by startups, further emphasises the role that new technologies will play in the development of the economy. Efforts to establish 1 lakh digital villages is also a positive step towards strengthening digital penetration in rural India and will significantly increase the adoption of digital platforms across the masses."

Pankit Desai, Co-founder and CEO of Sequretek, a cybersecurity startup, said the execution of the AI national centre will be the key and that governments in other countries have already made a start and are investing heavily in AI and AI-led initiatives to become a data-rich economy. 

"The success of the highly futuristic mission rests on three pillars — talent, money and use cases. Our belief is that PPP model will work to realise this goal. Because if we are able to create a talent pool and there is no groundbreaking work happening, then this initiative wouldn’t achieve its ambition," said Desai, adding, "For such a large initiative where the end goal is one, the entire ecosystem has to be evangelised for it to work. The government, private companies and new age startups who are already working in the field will not only benefit from it but will play a key role in developing this programme."

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Startups welcome national programme on AI

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