The Future of AI in India: Building a People-First Digital Landscape
At People+ai, our aim is straightforward: we use AI to tackle real-world challenges and make everyday life better.
The concept of 'Adbhut India' guides our vision. It's about creating a future where AI is valued for its impact on people's lives, not just its technical capabilities. In this blog, we invite you to learn about our mission and the steps we're taking to make this vision a reality.
India needs AI
While Digital Public Infrastructures (DPIs) like Aadhaar in India revolutionized access to public welfare services, a significant portion of the population remains marginalized due to gaps in digital literacy, gender, and accessibility.
For example, a considerable portion of the population struggles with literacy – nearly one in four Indians cannot read or write. In this context, the ease of engaging with digital platforms is often limited. So technology, which was envisioned as a tool for inclusion, inadvertently excludes many.
At People+ai, we're addressing this challenge head-on, leveraging AI to democratize access to digital services across India. The problem is clear: despite advancements, there remains a substantial proportion of the Indian population that is digitally disenfranchised.
Our strategy is anchored in the two-fold approach of lowering entry barriers through DPIs and elevating user capability via AI. Our perspective is that India needs an increased AI per capita deployment. Given the country's diversity and scale, India is poised to become a global leader in practical AI applications. This is what we’re calling DPI to the power of AI – allowing a broader range of users to engage with technology confidently.
India's diversity is not just a challenge but an opportunity for AI. The country's mix of languages and informal systems is a perfect testbed for AI's versatility. From assisting in multilingual education environments to aiding judicial processes, AI's potential applications are vast and varied. This approach is not just about technological innovation; it's about creating solutions that are as diverse as India itself.
India is poised to be the AI use-case capital of the world
India's rich diverse spectrum of languages, cultures, and socio-economic backgrounds positions it uniquely as the AI use case capital of the world. This diversity is an asset that provides a fertile ground for AI technologies to be tested, adapted, and scaled in ways that could be replicated globally.
Each state in India, with its distinct identity, acts like a microcosm for different parts of the world, offering a broad spectrum of scenarios for AI solutions. For example, AI tools developed to support healthcare in India's rural areas, where resources are scarce and access to qualified professionals is limited, could be applied to similar contexts in other developing nations. A farmer in rural Punjab can receive weather forecasts and agricultural advice in Punjabi, while a fisherman in Kerala accesses the same in Malayalam, thanks to AI-powered translation services.
Similarly, AI-driven financial inclusion initiatives targeting India's unbanked population can offer insights and models for countries striving to enhance their financial services. The leapfrogging of technology in India, from skipping the landline phase directly to mobile phones, hints at how quickly and innovatively the country adopts new technologies.
This makes India a live lab for AI solutions, setting a precedent for how AI can be leveraged in diverse settings around the globe.
Building a comprehensive use case library
One practical manifestation of India as an AI use case capital is the development of a comprehensive use case library. This library would catalog a wide array of scenarios across different sectors like healthcare, education, agriculture, and urban planning.
Each use case would detail the problem, the AI solution applied, the outcomes, and insights gained. This repository would be invaluable not just for India but for the global community, offering learnings and blueprints that can be adapted to similar challenges elsewhere.
Tailoring AI to local needs
In India, AI has the potential to address hyper-local problems. For example, in agriculture, AI can be used to predict weather patterns and crop diseases, tailored to the specific needs of different regions.
In healthcare, AI-driven diagnostic tools can aid grassroot-level health workers like Anganwadi and ASHA workers, to digitize medical notes and data collection. AI can be deployed to recognize symptoms and diseases prevalent in particular areas. This level of customization requires deep understanding and data, something that a diverse and populous country like India can provide.
Facilitating cross-sector collaboration
India's position as the AI use case capital encourages collaboration across different sectors. Technology companies, government bodies, educational institutions, and NGOs can work together to identify problems, share data, and develop solutions. This collaborative approach not only accelerates the development of AI applications but also ensures they are grounded in real-world needs.
Nurturing a skilled workforce
To support this vision, there's a need for a skilled workforce that can develop and implement AI solutions. India’s large and young population, increasingly skilled in technology and data science, becomes a key asset. Educational and training programs focused on AI and machine learning can be tailored to prepare individuals to work on these diverse use cases.
As India develops AI solutions for its unique challenges, it also contributes to the global body of knowledge in AI. Solutions developed for India's diverse and complex scenarios can offer insights and models for other countries facing similar issues. India’s role as the AI use case capital has implications far beyond its borders, positioning it as a leader in practical, scalable AI solutions.
AI for the people
The influence of AI and technology in our daily lives is undeniable. From the way we wake up to an algorithmic alarm that knows our sleep patterns, to the streaming services that predict what we want to watch next, and the way we order food from an app that remembers our favorite dishes, AI is woven into our day-to-day existence.
However, this technological integration comes with its complexities. On one hand, we have unprecedented access to information, connectivity, and automation, driving efficiency and innovation.
Yet, this convenience comes with its complexities. While technology opens doors to new possibilities, it also raises questions about who holds the keys. There's the looming risk of a future where decisions are increasingly made by a select few, potentially sidelining the diverse needs of the broader population. This concentration of power can lead to a homogenized future, where the diverse needs and capabilities are overlooked by one-size-fits-all solutions.
Recognizing this, the call to action is clear: We must embed empathy and inclusivity at the heart of technological design. It's not enough for AI systems to be intelligent; they must also be compassionate, understanding the farmer's need for weather forecasts as much as a student's need for personalized learning aids. By focusing on real-world applications, we ensure that technology doesn't just advance but does so in a way that enriches everyone's life, leaving no one behind.
As India develops AI solutions for its unique contexts, it contributes significantly to the global AI knowledge pool. The solutions forged for India's complex scenarios can offer insights and models for other countries with similar challenges.
The only meaningful AI future is one that prioritizes a people-first approach. Our mission at People+ai is to ensure that AI serves as a tool for empowerment and inclusivity, reshaping lives and jobs across India.
By turning our challenges into opportunities and adopting a use-case-led model combined with a DPI-like approach, we are crafting a uniquely Indian model of AI – Digital Public Intelligence. This approach ensures open and accessible AI solutions, leading to a more equitable society where technology adapts to people’s needs, not the other way around.
We invite volunteers, partners, and visionaries to get involved in our work: https://peopleplus.ai/work-with-us.
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People+ai is a non-profit, housed within the EkStep Foundation. Our work is designed around the belief that technology, especially ai, will cause paradigm shifts that can help India & its people reach their potential.