While presenting the Union Budget 2023, India’s finance minister Nirmala Sitharaman announced that three centres for excellence on artificial intelligence (AI) would be set up in the top educational institutions. This will help the country to have a developed AI ecosystem. In Sitharaman’s words, the country will ‘Make AI in India’ and ‘Make AI For India.’
Elaborating on this, Sitharaman added, "Leading industry players will partner in conducting interdisciplinary research, develop cutting-edge applications and scalable problem solutions in the areas of Agriculture, Health and sustainable cities. This will galvanize an effective AI ecosystem and nurture quality human resources in the field."
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These centers will be a collaborative effort between educational institutions and industries. The government is setting this up to augment the R&D of practical AI applications in the fields of agriculture, health, mobility and sustainability by building a talent pool of skilled AI professionals.
Kapil Bardeja, CEO and co-founder of Vehant Technologies, which offers AI-based vehicle scanning systems, called this announcement a positive step in boosting the relationship between industry and academia. "As an industry participant, we believe that this will lead to path breaking research in AI. The industry will be able to work on new technologies together with the upcoming talent from institutions and boost the technology quotient of the country in AI," he added.
India has recently taken over the chair for Global Partnership on Artificial Intelligence (GPAI) to support responsible and human-centric development and use of AI. In 2020, Prime Minister Narendra Modi stated the country can easily become a global hub for AI and his administration has emphasised on leveraging this technology.
A NASSCOM report stated that India’s investments in AI technologies were expected to cross $880 million by 2023, though this would still amount to around 2.5 per cent of the global AI investment.
One of the biggest stumbling blocks in reaching this threshold is the lack of AI skilled professionals. During a cross sector survey, Deloitte found that almost 13 per cent respondents cited lack of skilled AI talent as their top challenge.
Many industry representatives have opined that the growth of new-age technologies like AI and machine learning (ML) is a great opportunity for India, given its large labour pool, which can be upskilled and reskilled. Several were hoping that the Union Budget 2023 would allocate investments in state-of-the-art incubation centers that could digitally transform innovative ideas into sustainable businesses for start-ups and enterprises alike.