One of India’s biggest commercial centres, Maharashtra has played a significant role in the country’s economic and tech-based growth. A prowess among other Indian states from agriculture and industrial production to trade and transport to education and even entertainment, it has emerged as a key hub for various activities. Although the state’s infrastructure sector has grown significantly over the last decade, owing to global climate change, it has experienced several problems like global warming, pollution, unpredictable weather, adverse agricultural productivity, and so on. However, the water crisis has reached unexpected levels and making agriculture more predictable is the need of the hour.
It’s only the beginning of 2019 and the Government of Maharashtra has already declared 931 more villages as drought-hit, affecting 82.27 lakh farmers. Recognising that a state is drought-affected means that the state government is compelled to intervene, and it has. In 2018, Hon. Chief Minister Shri Devendra Fadnavis asked his council of ministers to visit the tehsils hit by drought and submit reports on the ground situation to a cabinet sub-committee. Apart from schemes such as Jal Yukt Shivar to make Maharashtra a drought-free state, the Chief Minister also focuses on using technology to improve access to basic services. The state is planning to warn farmers beforehand about cotton bollworm attacks using an AI-based system so that they can take preventive measures prior to the attack. They are also planning to provide health services to remote villages using AI-powered diagnostic tools like retinal photography and transmission via the Internet to centrally located doctors, along with the prediction of TB outbreaks using a vast amount of data points from the past decade. AI has also been introduced in schools and universities across the state. The Analytics India Magazine survey of 2018 saw Mumbai University top the list of universities or schools where a majority of AI professionals in India graduate from.
The government is taking dedicated efforts to improve the living conditions of its citizen. That being said, can we predict a natural disaster before it happens? Or track a disease as soon as it starts to spread, to eliminate it sooner? Or be informed about the water levels in each district before it’s struck by drought? Hard and unanswered questions can be explored through AI. It is an effective tool to provide new ways of approaching problems and meaningfully improving people’s lives. With the boom of AI-based startups using emerging technologies, it is only fitting for the government to collaborate with them to use AI and ML to solve social problems in the state.
The Government of Maharashtra is at the forefront when it comes to adopting emerging technologies for social good. In recent years, several initiatives have been taken under the visionary leadership of Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis to adopt AI in governance to improve the lives of citizens. They have collaborated with World Economic Forum to set up the Centre for the 4th Industrial Revolution in Mumbai which will focus on emerging tech such as AI, Drones, IoT, Blockchain, and more. The state is the first in the country to launch Maha-AgriTech Programme in partnership with ISRO and MRSAC where AI and ML will be used to process data generated from satellites, drones, on-ground automatic weather stations and soil health cards. The aim is to bring more predictability in farming with regard to crop patterns, yield estimation, water level, soil health, and so on. Other initiatives include launching Wadhwani AI, a not-for-profit AI institute for social good and setting up 2,060 automatic weather stations, one in every revenue circle of the state to generate valuable insights for farmers, among others. “AI can act as a means to bridge the gap between the rich and poor in the state,” said the Chief Minister at a panel discussion on governance and AI in Montreal.
In order to continue the focus on technology-based solutions in governance, the Government of Maharashtra is looking to partner with startups and organisations that are passionate about solving social challenges using their AI-based solutions.
The Government of Maharashtra has launched the AI Innovation Challenge to identify enthusiastic and passionate startups, MSMEs and organisations from all across India, that have developed AI-based solutions for social problems.
“The Government of Maharashtra is enabling an innovation-based economy by encouraging startups to design novel solutions using AI to solve the burning issues in the state. AI-powered tools can bridge the economic gap in Maharashtra and help us achieve our goal of becoming a $ 1 trillion economy by 2024-25. We have amazing resources within the state in the form of innovative startups, and we hope to resolve some of the biggest social challenges in the state through this collaboration,” says Kaustubh Dhavse, Officer on Special Duty to the Hon. CM, Government of Maharashtra.
The objective is to collaborate and partner with them to create solutions for challenges in areas that include, but are not limited to, healthcare, agriculture, education, smart mobility and water management, smart cities and infrastructure, and accessibility for the differently abled. Startups that do not fall under any of the above categories are also encouraged to apply.
Startups, MSMEs and organisations that have developed AI-based solutions are encouraged to apply by submitting a proposal after filling up necessary details on the registration page.
The shortlisted startups will get the opportunity to pitch their ideas to the Government of Maharashtra on March 2, 2019, and the winners will get to collaborate with relevant government departments for a Proof of Concept (PoC) in the state. That's not all. Wadhwani AI will be selecting 2 startups whose ideas have the most potential to create a positive social impact. They will be recognised and awarded a cash prize of Rs 5 lakhs each as well as an opportunity to collaborate with the Hub at Wadhwani AI in order to build long-term engagement and help accelerate impact.