In a world thriving on disruptive technologies, Artificial Intelligence (AI) has the potential to be a technology game changer. What was once only the plot of sci-fi movies has now become reality. Automated systems that can improve healthcare, banking, transportation and education sectors, all the while seeing, hearing, learning and reasoning, are gaining popularity with governments. Enterprises have also begun to realise the advantages of AI as the key differentiator in a highly competitive market.

What’s even more exciting is that while AI has been present for more than half a century, we have just scratched the surface of the full potential of this technology. A recent report by PwC forecasts that AI will contribute as much as $15.7 trillion to the world economy by 2030—this number is a strong testament to its potential. A study by Accenture further estimates that AI will add $957 billion or 15% of current gross value added to India’s economy by 2035.

What we are seeing today is nothing short of a paradigm shift in the field of technology. Earlier this year, three computer scientists, who laid the groundwork for many of the recent progressions in the field of AI and computing, were honoured with the Turing Award, considered as the highlight accolade in this field. Over the past decade, the big idea nurtured by these researchers has reinvented the way technology is built, accelerating the development of face-recognition services, talking digital assistants, warehouse robots and self-driving cars.

The real challenge, however, lies in figuring out if we can leverage AI’s future towards positive consequences. How do we ensure that AI unfolds in ways that are inclusive and benefit society? How do we fill the gap between the massive data generated every day and the scarcity of skilled professionals? How do we focus AI on solving urgent global and local issues?

Technology breakthroughs and societal Impact

India, going at par with the world, is taking mammoth steps towards the AI revolution. Several institutions and the government in India are now looking to use technology to solve some pressing societal issues from the remotest corners of the country. The faculty at Indian Institute of Technology in Madras recently launched a platform called AI4Bharat to address social issues that are relevant to the country. Through the platform, AI professionals, students, experts, policy-makers and academicians will be problem-solving in domains that include agriculture and healthcare among others.

There is a vibrant local and global developer community working on using AI for good. From putting a plant disease detection solution in the hands of farmers to a cash recognition application for the visually impaired to AI-powered wheelchairs for persons with disabilities to applications that help detect water contamination - these are just some of the use cases that exist today and have the potential to scale and address critical concerns in countries like India. The Indraprastha Institute of Information Technology (IIIT) in Delhi recently set up a Centre for Technology and Policing aimed at helping reduce crime through AI-enabled cyber policing, social media analysis and image processing. India today also has one of the most vibrant AI start up ecosystems globally with innovations across sectors such as transportation, manufacturing, retail, and healthcare, among others.

Building our AI Future

The Indian government’s plans announced in the Interim Budget included a national centre for Artificial Intelligence along with a national AI portal. It was duly supported in the current budget by the finance minister, which stated that the government will focus its efforts on training youth in AI, the Internet of things, big data, 3D printing, robotics, and virtual reality to achieve the country’s vision of a digitally advanced ecosystem.

Previous technology revolutions have led to substantial scale of capabilities. The industrial revolution scaled human labor as the power of machines was added in the production process. The volume and accessibility of information scaled with the Internet revolution. And now, AI is set to scale expertise by augmenting the knowledge and intelligence of humans. The possibilities are limitless, and an intentional approach will help deliver the exponential impact of the AI future we want.

Views are personal.

The author is vice president and managing director - sales and marketing group, Intel India.

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