Policy Plunge

Our Priority Is Preparing AI-Ready Civil Services: Karmayogi Bharat Mission Chairperson S Ramadorai

Artificial intelligence (AI) is forecast to be one of the biggest game-changers the world has ever seen. Studies have already brought out how greater use of AI tech can expand economies, boost corporate productivity, says S Ramadorai

With India planning to leverage AI in a big way to achieve its target of becoming a developed nation by 2047 and provide its 1.4 billion people with a better quality of life, Sumali Moitra, on behalf of The Secretariat, reached out to  S Ramadorai, Chairperson of the Govt. of India’s Karmayogi Bharat Mission and former Vice-Chairman of Tata Consultancy Services (TCS) to elicit his views on a wide range of issues connected with artificial intelligence.

Here are the edited excerpts of Ramadorai’s interview:

Need For a Data-backed Study On Al's Impact 

 A comprehensive, data-backed study is essential to understand AI’s impact on various job roles across sectors in India. An IMF report has projected that AI will affect almost 40 per cent of jobs worldwide, replacing some and complementing others. It is also important to note that AI will also create new types of jobs as its use evolves.

AI is already transforming sectors across the board, from manufacturing to banking, healthcare, agriculture, and education. For instance, in the education sector, AI is changing India’s learning landscape by enabling personalised curriculum, tests, learning methods, and delivery. In the BFSI sector, AI is revolutionising banking in India in various ways, such as being used for underwriting where increased volumes and velocity of loan applications have necessitated shortened risk assessment and evaluation cycles. Large language models in the BFSI segment are being built by start-ups.

The Indian government has launched the national-level IndiaAI mission with a significant budget outlay of over Rs 10,000 crore to catalyse  AI innovation through strategic programs and partnerships across public and private sectors. Unlike Western countries, which have legacy systems to overhaul, India’s AI-first systems will be built from the ground up, allowing for quicker adoption.

Given that the net effect of AI on economies is difficult to foresee as AI will ripple through economies in a number of ways, a periodic study, rather than a one-time study, would be more beneficial to track the evolving impact of AI on jobs.

A collaborative effort involving organisations like Nasscom and IndiaAI, academic institutions like IITs, and TISS, research organisations, private companies, and Sector Skill Councils would be ideal for conducting such a study. Sector Skill Councils (SSCs) under the National Skill Development Corporation (NSDC) can provide granular insights into AI’s impact on different sectors. This multi-stakeholder approach would ensure a comprehensive and credible study, providing valuable insights for policymakers, educators, and workers, helping them prepare for the future.

What Needs To Be Done For Al To Create New, Better-quality Jobs

To ensure that AI creates more, new, and better-quality jobs in India, several steps need to be taken. First and foremost, there should be a focus on education and training programs to equip the workforce with the necessary skills to work in AI-related fields. This is crucial as the nature of jobs will transform, and new roles will emerge as AI becomes more prevalent.

Promoting AI innovation and startups can also lead to the creation of new jobs. Innovative AI applications across various sectors can open up new avenues for employment.  The government is already playing a crucial role in fostering an environment conducive to AI development and job creation through initiatives like the IndiaAI mission.  These initiatives are instrumental in promoting AI research and development, thereby creating more job opportunities.

The development of domain-specific AI models is another crucial aspect. These models, specially trained on large amounts of data within a specific field or industry, enable them to grasp the nuances and jargon unique to that domain. This not only enhances the effectiveness of AI applications but also creates a need for professionals who can develop, manage, and maintain these models.

Take healthcare as a sector where AI is revolutionising the Indian job market by creating diverse employment opportunities. For instance, in radiology, AI is being used to handle growing caseloads and ensure more accuracy. With just 10,000 radiologists in the country for a billion people, adopting AI-based radiology reporting solutions is a must. Companies like Annalise.ai and Qure.ai are offering AI-powered solutions for automated interpretation of radiology exams like X-rays, CTs, and Ultrasound scans.  These developments are creating new jobs such as AI specialists and data analysts.

In the sanitation sector, Indian cities could increasingly use AI-powered robots to tackle water and sanitation challenges in the future. Robots could be deployed for tasks such as cleaning manholes, inspecting water pipelines for leaks, and clearing trash from water bodies. This not only improves sanitation but also shifts the workforce towards better-quality jobs.  For instance, India’s Swachh Bharat Mission has introduced its first septic tank cleaning robot, Homosep Atom, which is transforming manual cleaning methods into robotic solutions. This enhances the efficiency and effectiveness of sanitation efforts and leads to human safety.

In the agriculture sector, AI has the potential to transform India’s farming practices.  From precision farming to crop health assessment, AI could enable farmers to increase productivity and sustainability. This again could lead to the creation of new roles.

In addition to these, programs like the “Drone Didi” are training women in rural India to operate drones. This program is not only providing them with a new skill set but also opening up future job opportunities. 

Safety Net For Those Jobs Impacted By AI

The idea of a safety net in the context of AI and jobs should extend beyond just social security measures. It is about creating an ecosystem that enables employees to adapt to the changing job landscape. The most effective safety net in this scenario would be equipping individuals with the right competencies and fostering a mindset open to learning and adapting.

Re-skilling and upskilling programs play a crucial role in this regard.  These programs could help employees develop new competencies and adapt to the changing job market. For instance, Tata Consultancy Services (TCS) has built one of the largest and most artificial-intelligence-ready workforces in the world. TCS employees have clocked 51 million learning hours and acquired five million competencies in FY24. Similarly, other companies are also investing in upskilling their workforce to navigate the AI-driven job market.

Let me also mention Mission Karmayogi Bharat, which is the national initiative for civil service competency building to move from a rule-based to a role-based model. It is transforming the Indian civil services capacity-building landscape by establishing a robust digital ecosystem enabling continuous anytime-anywhere learning to make the officials future-ready.  One of our priorities at Mission Karmayogi Bharat is to prepare an AI-ready Civil Services. This initiative will have a cascading effect as the AI-trained workforce is integrated into the Government system.

Moreover, collaborations between the government and private sector can establish training programs and initiatives that focus on AI and related fields. This would not only help the current workforce transition into new roles created by AI but also ensure that the future workforce is equipped with skills needed for the jobs of tomorrow.
The Case For Indian Al Safety Institute 

Considering the rapid advancement and widespread application of AI, it would indeed be beneficial for India to establish its own AI Safety Institute. Such an institute could focus on developing safe and ethical AI practices, conducting research, and fostering a culture of safety in AI use.

India is already making strides in this direction with various initiatives aimed at promoting responsible AI practices. However, the establishment of a dedicated AI Safety Institute could further bolster these efforts. It could serve as a hub for research and policymaking, ensuring that AI technologies are developed and used responsibly and ethically.

The challenges posed by AI are multifaceted and constantly evolving.  For instance, deepfakes, which are digital media — video, audio, and images — edited and manipulated using Artificial Intelligence, incorporate hyper-realistic digital falsification. This can potentially be used to damage reputations, fabricate evidence, and undermine trust in democratic institutions.  While deepfakes have been used in some instances like elections, their use is increasingly being seen in various other areas as well.

Beyond deepfakes, there are other risks associated with AI. These include issues related to privacy, bias, transparency, accountability, and the potential misuse of AI for malicious purposes.  The Government is trying to address these issues through advisories and regulations that emphasise transparency, content moderation, consent mechanisms, and deepfake identification to ensure responsible AI deployment and safeguard electoral integrity. This is an ongoing effort and as we progress, we will likely see the development of a more robust mechanism to address these challenges. AI will continue to evolve and become more integrated into our lives, and we must ensure it does so in a way that is safe, ethical, and beneficial for all.

Electrical Power Infrastructure Needed To Support AI Growth

To support the anticipated expansion of AI in India, a robust electrical power infrastructure is essential. The electrical power required for running AI systems is substantial and will only increase with the growing adoption of AI.

Given the pressing issues of climate change and sustainability, it is imperative that additional electrical power comes from renewable sources. While India has made significant strides in integrating renewable energy into its total energy mix, further development is needed to meet the rising power demand.

Beyond power, the growth of AI also requires AI-specific hardware, cloud computing infrastructure, and increased sector investment.  For instance, AI-specific hardware like GPUs are vital for AI computations. Recent advancements, such as    Nvidia’s Blackwell architecture, have significantly improved performance, power efficiency, and scalability, making AI computations more affordable. This trend of decreasing cost of processing power is expected to continue with ongoing research and development.

Cloud computing infrastructure can provide the necessary computational resources for AI. As an example, the Indian government has established an AI-specific cloud computing infrastructure known as AIRAWAT. This platform assists in the R&D of new technologies, helping to solve business and governance use cases.

Investment is key to supporting the development of necessary infrastructure, hardware, and cloud computing capabilities. Collaboration between the government and the private sector can mobilise the required capital. This combined effort will drive AI innovation, economic growth, and job creation, positioning India at the forefront of the AI revolution.

(The author is a current affairs commentator. The interview was conducted over e-mail on behalf of The Secretariat)

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