Among the many reforms and changes that the COVID-19 crisis has brought in our lives; some have been good and some bad. For instance, many of us got the chance to rekindle our relations with our families and to develop new hobbies. On a larger scale, the Lockdown led to a significant decrease in global pollution.
The scope of digital learning being explored on such a large scale is yet another major benefit that we have received from this crisis.
Many educational institutions and establishments in India have tried to incorporate online learning into their curriculum with varying degrees of success.
The Government of India has also recognised the opportunity for development presented by online learning and decided to take it a step further with the announcement of the National Artificial Intelligence (NAI) Portal in this year’s Union Budget.
“What COVID-19 has done is just amazing. It has brought technology to the forefront like nothing else has,” said Nasscom President, Debjani Ghosh. She also emphasised that the work India does on AI will be important for the world going forward.
Aim of the National Artificial Intelligence Portal
The National Artificial Intelligence Portal aims at laying the foundation of a new career path for the students of the country that would like to explore the realm of AI development.
AI has been a topic of discussion for a long, long time. The famous classic novel laureate, Isaac Asimov’s Three Laws of Robotics describe how simplistic our approach regarding AI used to be.
However, as most of us now know, artificial intelligence is capable of accomplishing a lot and of making our lives much better and easier.
The development of AI has been in its preliminary phase for a while and is finally showing signs of reaching the point at which its use can be commercialised.
The commercialisation of AI presents lucrative business opportunities to those countries that are prepared to benefit from them and the aim of the NIA Portal is exactly that.
It aims at helping create a foundation for the Indian students to build upon as they explore the opportunities the will be generated from the development and commercialisation of AI.
Simply put, the Portal aims at providing the students with the knowledge and resources required for researching AI and inventing AI-based products.
It may be said that the National Artificial Intelligence Portal is meant to work as a one-stop digital platform for all AI-related developments in India.
The team behind the Portal is also working on investor pitch events to make data sources available through the Portal in the future.
What are the expectations of the government?
The NAI Portal is being jointly developed by the National e-Governance Division, of the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology and the National Association of Software and Service Companies. Intel and CBSE are also part of the project.
This portal is aimed at promoting the development of AI in India while encouraging the students to join in. The vision of the government is to have the country’s youth be well-prepared to exploit this upcoming avenue of technological development as it enters its final developmental phase and is on the brink of being commercialised.
“If we’re able to empower Indians with the power of technology, it will surely be a defining moment for our nation and economy,” IT Minister, Mr Ravi Shankar Prasad said
He also stated that no matter how advanced AI becomes, it will never replace the human intellect and conscience.
The IT Minister, during his speech, implored Intel to come up with AI-based products to create a stable foundation for commercial AI, which can later be replicated and improved upon with community effort.
Another important fact that the minister reiterated was that the world is changing and businesses and the various types of institutions should adapt to the changing times by incorporating digital technology into their personal and business affairs.
What does the corporate sector expect from AI?
The software-based companies based/operating in India are optimistic towards the commercialisation of AI. They are aware of the prospects and opportunities, which it will bring forth, and are doing their best to prepare for the transition.
However, there is no denying the fact that human capital will be the most important for seizing these opportunities.
Since the NIA Portal is aiming to develop the workforce dedicated to AI development and commercialisation, the corporate sector is welcoming it with open arms.
“AI is absolutely critical. I want India to become synonymous with AI. It is important because the world will see at least US $16 trillion more in the next decade or so. And, I want to see India get most of this into our economy,” stated Nivruti Rai, National Head, Intel India.
Responsible AI for Youth Programme
The IT Minister announced the Responsible AI for Youth Programme, in his speech, which is aimed at providing the students of government schools with the knowledge and skills related to the development and commercialisation of AI.
The goal of this programme will be to bring AI-related education to the country’s students with extra emphasis being placed on the students studying in government schools.
Between Kindergarten and Inter, India currently possesses over 250 million students, and only about 40% of them are enrolled in private schools located in the urban region.
Therefore, putting extra emphasis on the students enrolled in government schools will provide a larger amount of qualified workforce while also improving the overall living standards and conditions across India.
This programme hopes to help the students become AI-ready by providing them with the proper skill set and mindset required to make the most out of the AI-related opportunities.
The Responsible AI for Youth Programme will first be made available to class 8-12 students from government schools based in the District Headquarters.
How will the programme be implemented?
The programme is set to be implemented in three stages. Their general outlines are as follows:
First Stage: A group of teachers and students will be selected and undergo orientation and online training sessions.
At the end of these sessions, they will be instructed to submit brief descriptions of their ideas related to innovations in the field of AI through 60 second online videos.
The top 100 suggestions will be selected from all submissions and the shortlisted students will be allowed to enter boot camp to further develop their ideas.
The students will, then, develop their ideas and submit its blueprint in video format through the programme’s website.
Second Stage: Ten teachers per state will be selected by the government through self-nomination or with the help of the State Education Departments.
These teachers will attend special AI-related training, upon the completion of which, they will further nominate 25-30 students from their schools and pass down their knowledge of AI to the same.
Third Stage: This stage includes 50 ideas shortlisted from the blueprints submitted by the students from the first stage.
The students behind these 50 innovative ideas will then be invited to showcase their blueprints by submitting them on the website.
This initiative of the Government of India, and the positive response it has received from the field experts and corporate giants, bears witness to the fact that the times are changing, and, we as a nation will be ready to embrace this change.
It is high time for all of us to let go of redundant and cumbersome traditional practices and replace them with their modern, digital and online counterparts.
The small transitions we make in our daily lives can go a long way in keeping up with the times. For instance, it is easy for us to gradually switch from paper currency to digital currency, just like our ancestors did from precious metals to paper bills in the past.
This is not the first time that the society is changing and it surely won’t be the last. We must all stay optimistic and remember that the commercialisation of AI, in the long run, will create more job opportunities than it will extinguish. All we need to do to stay in the game is to keep an eye out for the new opportunities originating from the changing global scenario and exploit them to the best of your capabilities. That way, we can all grow and prosper together and leave behind a more resplendent legacy for our descendants.