IITs are rolling out new courses tailored to meet the demand for skilled professionals in artificial intelligence and related areas.Debolina Biswas
During his Interim Budget speech, Finance Minister Piyush Goyal said that the government is launching a national programme for artificial intelligence (AI). As a part of the programme, nine Centres of Excellence to leverage AI will be built.
According to NITI Ayog's National Strategy for AI Discussion Paper, AI has the potential to drive growth through enabling intelligent automation, labour, and capital augmentation, and innovation diffusion.
AI in healthcare can address and bridge the gaps related to access of facilities beyond the metro cities. Similarly, it can also solve quality and accessibility issues in the education sector. In logistics, AI can solve traffic management.
But, there’s a catch.
NITI Ayog says that there is an "inadequate availability of AI expertise, manpower, and skilling opportunities", in India.
"India has talent friction - we have a lot of people and a lot of vacancies as well. But we require finished goods for these jobs. With the practices that academic institutions are adopting today, they are unable to provide the right kind of tools and exposure. If we don't change this now, even after 10 years, we won't be able to create 20 percent of the specialist talent that we require," says Kamal Karanth, Co-founder of Xpheno, Bengaluru-based talent solutions company.
Universities are unable to keep up with creating courses in emerging technologies because of the speed at which these technologies develop.
He adds, "Our finishing schools are not great. Today even large companies have factories they train employees for six months. If that much time is spent during the academic years with industry collaboration, it would be helpful.”
Nevertheless, the IITs are now stepping up to the challenge and rolling out a slew of short-term courses designed to provide the Indian industry with the talent it needs. Many of these courses are meant for recent graduates and working professionals.
"IIT Hyderabad's decision to start a BTech programme in AI is a step in the direction to address the urgent needs of the country in this space," says Sumohana S. Channappayya, Associate Professor, Department of Electrical Engineering, IIT Hyderabad.
The institute already offers an MTech programme in data science and machine learning.
"The Centre for AI launched a new subject on 'Deep Learning Foundations and Applications' this semester to cater to the large demand among students. It also plans to launch more AI courses in the coming semesters," said Professor Sudeshna Sarkar, Head of Centre of AI and Department of Computer Science and Engineering, IIT Kharagpur, to YourStory.
"This will be offered in Bengaluru, Kharagpur and possibly Hyderabad from March 2019. We are also planning to launch a certificate course on 'Advanced Machine Learning’ later this year," Sudeshna said.
One can simply enrol by providing basic information and applying through the institute's website. After an online computer based test, candidates will be called for interview. According to their website, for the March 2019 cohort, the course fee is Rs 4,00,000.
Professor Balaraman Ravindran, Head of RBC-DSAI, and a member of the faculty in the Department of Computer Science and Engineering, said:
"IIT Madras has a strong interdisciplinary programme in data science and AI. This encourages students to explore applications of AI in different domains. We have an interdisciplinary dual degree (B.Tech + M.Tech) programme on data science and AI, as well as an interdisciplinary research program on data sciences."
IIT Madras also works with government organisations, including defence services, Railways, and Chennai Transportation Corporation, typically addressing key challenges they face using cutting-edge technology in AI and data science.