Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman's Interim Budget 2024-25 could have a special focus on emerging technologies like Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Machine Learning (ML), with calls being made for using AI in various spheres of public services, including taxation, agriculture, education, and healthcare, to make the system more efficient.

Among the expectations, the first is the use of AI in various areas, including tax. "The government should boost investments in AI and identify new research areas, such as quantum computing in AI, digital nudge for social good using AI, Explainable AI (XAI), Gen Chem and Computational Biology, and smart and connected cities," write Debashish Banerjee and Shrenik Shah, partners at Deloitte, in their budget expectations and recommendations for the Interim Budget 2024.

They write the government’s role, in this budget, in promoting academia-industry collaboration will be key. Secondly, experts say the government must promote the PPP (public-private partnership) model, with value-based implementation. “India’s AI strategy focuses on social impact and has called out three sectors as a priority – agriculture, education, and healthcare.”

The Centre should list the key challenges in these sectors, crowd-source ideas, and implement those ideas, possibly under the PPP model, they say. “Some ideas could be digitising lawsuits and judgements in the tax area, and implementing a triage model using efficient reviews on tax, property, marital, and other easy-to-review litigations.” Other ideas on this front include the use of lifestyle-based data to predict future health score; digital nudge using AI to prevent fraud on government schemes, etc.

India has taken various significant steps in the area of centralised data repositories, with Aadhaar, CoWin, portability of insurance policies, and multiple other initiatives. However, to boost AI and analytics further, there have been calls to improve the trust of customers and organisations. "We must change the negative perception and narrative that may exist today."

Some say cyber-resilience needs to be a key area of focus for India in 2024. "In 2024, we will start to see the impact of attackers using AI to develop and launch cyberattacks. As a result, organisations will face more, faster, and increasingly sophisticated attacks – just at a time when many of them are investing heavily in digital transformation, increasing the potential attack surface available to threat actors," says Parag Khurana, country manager, Barracuda Networks (India) Pvt Ltd.

Amit Relan, Co-Founder and CEO, mFilterIt, says he expects to see a significant focus on transparency, data protection and privacy, and AI technology. “With the world adapting artificial intelligence, we expect to see swift adoption of the technology and leveraging it for further digital advancements. Alongside that adequate funding for cybersecurity measures is crucial for fortifying the digital infrastructure.”

The experts at Deloitte say although the Digital Personal Data Protection Act (DPDP) is a great beginning, the industry needs a deeper dive to ascertain how each industry is using personal data and keeping a balance between fostering innovation and regulating data use. “India must introduce penalties for unethical use, helping it shape its image as a global AI hub.”

Also, the Centre should craft a committee or programme that will task each government department to prioritise innovation using AI in their respective areas. There have also been calls for designing a central committee of AI/ML experts in India whose role will be on standardising the curriculum for the masses and suggesting new unexplored technologies.

Driven by the global buzz around AI and analytics, India’s tech and digital talent, and push from the government, India is emerging as a powerhouse in this area. Estimated to grow at a year-over-year CAGR of more than 30%, India Inc. has adopted AI in various segments.

The central and multiple state governments have launched various schemes to push AI adoption in India. Some of these schemes are “AI for all” by Niti Ayog, and Chair at GPAI in the current G20 summit. MeitY also plans to launch IndiaAI, Bhasini Programme, and YuvAI for skilling Indian youth by the central government. Similarly, states like Tamil Nadu, Telangana, and Karnataka have also launched schemes to boost the use of AI.

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