Artificial intelligence (AI) is high on the government agenda. Some days ago, Prime Minister Narendra Modi inaugurated the Wadhwani Institute for Artificial Intelligence, reportedly India’s first research institute focused on AI solutions for social good.

In the same week, Niti Aayog CEO Amitabh Kant argued that AI could potentially add $957 billion to the economy and outlined ways in which AI could be a ‘game changer’. During his budget speech, Finance Minister Arun Jaitley announced that Niti Aayog would spearhead a national programme on AI; with the near doubling of the Digital India budget, the IT ministry also announced the setting up of four committees for AI related research.

An industrial policy for AI is also in the pipeline, expected to provide incentives to businesses for creating a globally competitive Indian AI industry. Narratives on the emerging digital economy often suffer from technological determinism — assuming that the march of technological transformation has an inner logic, independent of social choice and capable of automatically delivering positive social change.

However, technological trajectories can and must be steered by social choice and aligned with societal objectives. PM Modi’s address hit all the right notes, as he argued that the ‘road ahead for AI depends on and will be driven by human intentions.’ Emphasising the need to direct AI technologies towards solutions for the poor, he called upon students and teachers to identify ‘the grand challenges facing India’ – To ‘Make AI in India and for India’.

To do so, will undoubtedly require substantial investments in R&D, digital infrastructure and education and re-skilling. But, two other critical issues must be simultaneously addressed: data bias and access to technology gains. Read more from…

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