techniques are increasingly being applied, such as in security, finance, manufacturing, ecommerce,
voice recognition and transportation. The application of AI in governance
provides an opportunity for India to apply information and communications technology
(ICT) tools and leapfrog developmental and infrastructural constraints.
Large data sets and better analytic tools allow for better design of policies. For example,
once we can map in detail all the court litigations in India, it can be a relatively easy
exercise to identify which laws — and which specific sections within those particular laws
— are generating larger amounts of litigation. We can then look at rectifying the law itself
(or modify its application) to reduce the amount of litigation, reducing the burden on our
This example is not a figment of imagination. The National Judicial Data Grid (NJDG) is
already producing data providing new insights.
Loo-king Down the Drain
AI systems can also be used in monitoring of developmental projects. The National Informatics Centre (NIC) has developed a pilot
project to monitor the implementation of the toilet construction programme under the Swachh Bharat Abhiyan by analysing photographs
taken with GPS-enabled smartphones. The AI software is able detect the location, the identity of the beneficiary through face-recognition
technology, and the physical state of the toilet using an algorithm that infers its condition from the pictures.
From thousands of photos, it can weed out duplicates, out-of-bounds entries, and improper construction or usage in a matter of
seconds. Thereby, it quickly identifies genuine cases that need to be reimbursed. This task would ordinarily take humans hundreds of
hours and be prone to human errors.
Other governance tasks AI can find uses for range from predictive maintenance of public infrastructure and disaster response, to
preventive healthcare and financial fraud prevention. Use of AI systems in the agriculture sector can help our farmers maximise farm
productivity and yields by using all available data relating to weather, soil conditions, groundwater, cropping patterns and providing
practical inputs about what to grow, when to grow, when to fertilise, irrigate and harvest.
AI tools like face recognition can be used to track known criminals using the data from ever-growing number of CCTV cameras. These
tools, of course, will need to be balanced against the individual’s right to privacy, which the Supreme Court has ruled to be a
The fear that AI may lead to loss of jobs is often expressed. But AI doesn’t replace humans. It only enhances their capacity to do a job. It
can take care of repetitive and unimaginative tasks, allowing the human mind to be applied to more creative pursuits. As it grows, the AI
field will itself create many more job opportunitie.
It will also become increasingly important to develop AI algorithms that are not just powerful and scalable but also transparent to inspection. They must be robust against manipulation. Responsibility, auditability, incorruptibility, predictability — all criteria that apply to humans performing governance functions would also be a factor in any AI algorithm to augment human judgement.
This January, a workshop with many leading experts from academia and industry discussed the way forward for creating an ecosystem for AI development in India. Four separate committees will be promoting AI initiatives and developing a policy framework. These committees will soon propose action plans in the areas of platform and data for AI; leveraging AI for identifying a national mission in key sectors; mapping technological capabilities and policy enablers required across sectors, skilling andskilling and re-skilling, and R&D; and cyber security, safety, legal and ethical issues. The report will set the tone of AI development and deployment in India.