Budget 2019: Finance Minister Piyush Goyal said the Government of India was launching a National Programme for Artificial Intelligence. Nine priority areas have been identified to build centres of excellence.
Presenting the Interim Budget for 2019, Finance Minister Piyush Goyal announced that the Government of India has envisaged a national programme for artificial intelligence (AI) in a bid to leverage the technology and take it to the masses.
While announcing this, the Minister also recognised the innovation taking place in the country, saying India was now the second-largest hub for startups in the world.
As a part of this programme, the government will work on building Centres of Excellence to leverage the power of AI. Further, it has identified nine priority areas. A national AI portal will also be opened for this.
The government also announced that it will create 1 lakh digital villages in the next five years.
Commenting on the announcement, Lizzie Chapman, Co-founder and CEO of ZestMoney, said,
"With the increase in consumption of mobile data and the number of people who have joined the formal financial system, India is on the cusp of a promising future where the financial inclusion for everyone is not far. With AI and financial solutions that address the capital requirements of every Indian, we can make India a financial powerhouse."
The first hint of this programme had come in June 2018 when government think-tank NITI Aayog launched a discussion paper outlining the national strategy for AI. The purpose of this paper was to lay the groundwork for evolving the National Strategy for Artificial Intelligence.
The discussion paper highlighted healthcare, agriculture, smart mobility (transportation), retail, manufacturing, energy, smart cities as well as education and skill development as key areas for transformation through AI.
Last month, at the World Economic Forum Annual Meeting in Davos, NITI Aayog CEO Amitabh Kant said that he believes that AI will transform Indian citizens, who have problems that are very different from the Western world.
Further, he hinted that global alliances are crucial in order to ensure that AI doesn’t remain elitist and that it has a positive impact on the lives of the masses.
In a national survey of business decision makers in February 2018, PwC revealed that 58–74 percent indicated that the likelihood of AI aiding socioeconomic causes like economic growth, cybersecurity/privacy, global health and well-being and global education and the government taking steps towards their application is high.
The findings were published in the report ‘Artificial intelligence in India – hype or reality’.