Vision 2020: Reimagining India over the next decade through AI

by September 2, 2019 0 comments

In his seminal work, India 2020: A Vision for the New Millennium, legendary scientist and statesman Dr APJ Abdul Kalam outlined a glorious roadmap for India’s future as an economy and as a nation. He foresaw technology as the enabler and driver of transformative changes across multiple domains. These included agriculture and food processing, infrastructure, education and healthcare, ICT, nuclear technology, space technology and national defense.

More importantly, Dr Kalam saw technology as the perfect tool to address long-term societal equities, such as poverty, illiteracy and crime. In India, he saw the potential for a developed, tech-led nation that had eliminated the urban-rural divide and become the global destination for healthcare, education, innovation and high-quality living.
As we inch closer to his envisioned timeline, the year 2020, it behooves us to look back at how far we’ve come to achieving these goals – and the magnitude of the task that remains ahead.

Tech-led, people-driven: AI as the enabler of Indian society and industry

India is regarded as one of the world’s leading technology and innovation hubs does not come as a surprise. Starting with the IT revolution in the late 80s and early 90s to the current wave of digital disruption, the country has consistently showcased its ability to bring forth leaders, experts and innovations in the technology domain.

This commitment to technological enablement reflects prominently in the latest Union Budget. While presenting the budget, the Honorable Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman underlined the government’s focus on facilitating the creation of a new India driven by digital technology. State-of-the-art technologies such as AI, machine learning and data science were highlighted amongst the pillars of India’s continued march towards becoming a $5 trillion economy by 2025.

There are many reasons why technology – and AI, in particular – have been identified as the key growth drivers for the country’s continued socioeconomic growth. The growing adoption of AI and allied technologies within the enterprise ecosystem is expected to bolster the Indian GDP by generating business value worth hundreds of billions of dollars.

Arguably more important than the economic value, however, is the human impact of these technological deployments. The Future of Jobs 2018, a report by the World Economic Forum, estimates that automation will overtake the human workforce in terms of workplace productivity by 2025 and will contribute 52% of the total task hours across 12 industries. The jobs displaced by this technological shift will mostly be low-value jobs.

Rajesh Kumar R, Vice President – Automation and Head of Global Delivery (Retail, CPG and Manufacturing), Mindtree

Rajesh Kumar R, Vice President – Automation and Head of Global Delivery (Retail, CPG and Manufacturing), Mindtree

This means that human workers will be relieved of mundane, repetitive tasks and can make more strategic, value-driven business contributions. Moreover, they will be able to upskill and reskill themselves, equipping themselves with the required knowledge and capabilities to pursue better career opportunities. This increase in productivity and output driven by AI will, therefore, translate to benefits for all stakeholders involved: better profitability for businesses, better service delivery for end-customers and better standards of living and growth opportunities for employees.

AI, India and the future

Government bodies and private players are already collaborating to pilot AI-led applications, even in domains which had hitherto been relatively untouched by cutting-edge innovations; these include areas such as agriculture, education and healthcare. The results generated thus far are extremely encouraging and indicative of the critical role that the technology can play in driving large-scale transformations across industries and sectors.

Talking about specific use-cases, we have the Ministry of Home Affairs is working towards deploying India’s first Intelligent Traffic Management System (ITMS) in New Delhi. Aimed at addressing the city’s perennial traffic woes, the deployment will leverage AI-based smart traffic signals to monitor, automate and streamline the flow of traffic flow. Similarly, the Ministry of Defence has its own AI Task Force, which is advising the government about the possible offensive and defensive applications to optimize its military strategy and further enhance India’s position as an emerging superpower.

Many more abound, if one digs deeper into the domain, while a massive number of potential applications are yet to be fully explored and realized. One thing, however, is certain: we are closer than ever to realizing Dr Kalam’s vision. That we will no longer be a question of feasibility, but merely that of time.

The author is Rajesh Kumar R, Vice President – Automation and Head of Global Delivery (Retail, CPG and Manufacturing), Mindtree.

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