Artificial Intelligence is an emerging technology in need of direction through a policy. Conflicting and confusing strategies by various government agencies have led to confusions. Discuss

Published: October 11, 2019

The government of India has been vocal about its intention to mainstream AI applications for social good, and ensure that AI research in India keeps pace with global developments. But India is still struggling to give a policy direction to this vision.

Too Many Cooks Spoil the Broth

Multiple calls taken by various governmental agencies has resulted in seemingly independent and often confusing strategies leading to a conflict and a very real danger of ineffective execution.

The Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (MEITy), the Department of Industrial Policy and Promotion (DIPP), and the Niti Aayog have all released national strategy documents on AI. Each of them contains recommendations on governing structures, policy, as well as proposals on the creation of new agencies. But surprisingly and worryingly there is a lack of clarity on how these structures and mechanisms will co-exist towards the goal of a unified AI strategy for the country.

The reports also suggest that MEITy is at loggerheads with the Niti Aayog in terms of who ought to ultimately spearhead this movement.

Sector-specific and diverse AI applications such as facial recognition and crop classification are supervised by different state and central-level ministries with seemingly no consolidation around these national AI strategies. This can result in fragmented adoption of technology, duplication of effort, and wasteful use of financial resources.

Way Forward

It is important and necessary that policy-makers and agencies converge their ideas around the groundwork that has been laid to streamline the effective creation and implementation of the country’s national AI strategy.

There is a need for greater transparency in the policy-making so that startups, non-governmental organisations and researchers can not only provide their input but also understand when they can use some of this promised infrastructure if they are to compete at the international level.

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