Planning is key for AI to support India’s growth

Source:Global Times Published: 2018/1/24 23:43:40

Illustration: Peter C. Espina/GT


With the rise of venture capital activity in India in recent years, money, projects and products from China's science and technology sectors have started to flow into India in large quantities. India is also vigorously developing its cloud computing, fifth-generation (5G) telecoms network, artificial intelligence (AI) and other emerging projects.

The popular concept of AI has a common source in both countries. A user-oriented market makes the AI industry infrastructures of China and India quite similar. For example, AI-enabled mobile internet products, which are very popular in China, are also widely welcomed in India.

In terms of e-commerce, Indian giants like Flipkart and ShopClues have begun to use machine learning technology to record user preferences and generate personalized recommendations, just like their Chinese counterparts Taobao and JD.com. Another example is mobile payments, which are hot in both countries.

Interestingly, some media reports have said that Indian entrepreneurs face a major dilemma that is making them hesitate to move into AI. The same is true of Chinese entrepreneurs.

For instance, a number of Indian entrepreneurs have said that although AI is wonderful, the technology threshold is too high for most people. Also, traditional technology giants are greatly influential on smaller companies in India. China has domestic giants like Baidu, Alibaba and Tencent, while India has Google, Facebook and other multinationals, as well as some domestic giants.

These big companies snap up high-quality AI projects and often launch similar products of their own, causing problems for start-ups. In addition, the lack of talent seems to be the root cause of all obstacles in India.

Numerous experts believe that if India can achieve a breakthrough in AI, the traditional IT outsourcing industry that has declined in the mobile internet era may help. Boosting AI development by the IT outsourcing industry may also avoid letting multinational technology giants corner the AI market in India.

By understanding these favorable conditions, IT outsourcing giants have begun to move. Tata Consultancy Services, for example, deployed the country's first Internet of Things (IoT) system. Infosys and Wipro are investing heavily in AI start-ups internationally and providing enterprise customers with AI-based IT business transformation and upgrading services.

These veteran companies with talent, capital and business lines once pushed India onto the highway of technological development. With the arrival of AI, they can do so again. Certainly, AI is not necessarily all good for India. Unlike most tech-savvy countries, the social factors in India put it at risk from AI.

The caste system, the exploding population and the unique geographic environment have kept many people in India from improving their economic situation. They lack knowledge and learning ability, so there are few jobs they can do. In most cases, meager income can only be achieved through a complex social system and bloated administrative structure.

The Indian government has introduced agricultural insurance in recent years. However, underwriting in the harvest season has become a heavy task. To verify land under cultivation by a large number of farmers, the Indian government annually employs millions of temporary workers. But AI can replace this work easily. Farmers just need to upload photos, and AI can complete the underwriting process.

Although AI sounds perfect, such labor substitutions on a broad scale may have a profound social impact. Due to the large population of young and middle-aged people in India and the lack of stable employment, such temporary work shoulders great responsibility for social stability.

After the popularization of AI, IoT and autonomous driving, more and more basic work will become less meaningful. This may not be entirely good news for India. In general, AI is a crucial strategic point for India. IT, biopharmaceuticals and other areas will give India added credit, and its large user base will also provide an incessant stream of imagination. However, the nation's aging infrastructure and huge population will put India's AI drive under a heavy burden.

Given these many contradictions, it's hard to tell whether the future of India is bright or dark. For China, more attention should be paid to what roles China can play in the pathway of India's AI development.

The article was compiled based on a report from Nao Jiti, an online media outlet focused on high technology. bizopinion@globaltimes.com.cn

Posted in: EXPERT ASSESSMENT

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