Where does India stand in the artificial intelligence (AI) revolution that’s spreading across the business landscape? According to India’s think tank Niti Aayog, AI might just be the single largest technology revolution of our time, with the potential to disrupt almost all aspects of human existence. AI is already applied across several business sectors and is being used across functions such as IT, R&D, product innovation, customer support, sales and marketing, supply chain and logistics, HR and finance.
According to Seagate’s latest survey, Data Pulse: Maximising the Potential of Artificial Intelligence, nearly all organisations (96%) in Asia Pacific expect AI to drive productivity and performance, and 90% in India are already using AI or AI-enabled applications. Further, almost every organisation in India (99%) is planning to implement AI technology more extensively over the next 12 months.
Surge in focus and investment in AI
India’s emphasis on AI is evident from the fact that the government has doubled its budget this year for its Digital India initiative to $477 million for advancing research in AI, Machine Learning (ML) and 3D printing.
Several enterprises have also set up AI research centres in India. For instance, The Council of Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) has joined hands with US-based chip-designer Nvidia Corp to set up a Centre of Excellence here to offer the industry a complete design and implementation environment for the development of AI-based applications. PayPal too sees India as a hotbed of innovation and has announced the opening of its technology innovations labs in Bengaluru and Chennai to build projects in AI and ML, amongst others. This year also saw Google opening its first data centre in India.
The AI implementation black box
While these are bright prospects, organisations have indicated some challenges with implementing AI successfully, especially when it comes to IT infrastructure.
Our Data Pulse survey findings highlighted that virtually every organisation in India agreed that the growing use of AI will lead to an increasing amount of data, yet one in 10 organisations do not believe their existing infrastructure is ready to handle the increasing data stream.
According to IDC’s Data Age 2025 report sponsored by Seagate, the global datasphere subject to data analysis will grow 50 times to 5.2 ZB by 2025. An even larger impact will be visible in the amount of analysed data that is processed by machine learning, natural language processing, and artificial intelligence – this amount may grow by a hundred-fold to 1.4 ZB. The indications are clear – it would be imperative for enterprises to expand data storage capacity quickly and cost-effectively without disrupting service level agreements.
In the race to stay relevant through the AI-led disruption that is coming our way, businesses will need to assess the scope of their AI projects and plan strategically for training and recruitment, IT infrastructure and appropriate data storage solutions.
Bridging the AI talent gap
The availability of talent is another factor influencing widespread AI implementation. Our Data Pulse survey reflects this urgent need: close to 80 percent of respondents find it challenging to find the right AI talent, and over 90 percent of them believe that they could do more with AI if the right talent was available.
In India, the academic proficiency levels of several engineering graduates have been found to be low, despite the nation boasting the largest community of software developers after the US, and having produced 2.6 million graduates in 2016 with STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) skills needed for developing AI technologies.
India’s Ministry of Commerce and Industry has registered this concern and has stressed the need for a larger investment in AI, advancement in its research, refreshing school curricula, and increased private sector focus on innovation.
To this effect, the Indian government, technology companies, and universities are working to train people at scale in AI and ML. For example, Ericsson has partnered with several IITs (Indian Institute of Technology), while Nokia has collaborated with IIT Delhi for AI and analytics-based projects in the creation of use cases for 5G. Intel has also initiated an ‘AI Developer Education Program’ comprising 60 courses to train 15,000 students, engineers, developers and scientists in India.
To sum it up, India has great potential to be a leader in AI. The nation produced 643 widely-cited AI research papers in 2015, behind only the United States and China, and churned out 2.6 million STEM graduates in 2016. Despite this, until quite recently AI research in the country was primarily housed in universities, namely the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) and Indian Institute of Science (IISc). However, with renewed focus from government and businesses, India is well positioned to accelerate its AI journey today. After all, it is at a pivotal juncture wherein the implementation of effective AI R&D programmes is essential to help it keep pace with the rest of the world.
By BS Teh, Senior Vice President, Global Sales and Sales Operations, Seagate Technology....