India is still in the process of making its population technology savvy. Yet, the country has seen great advancement in technology across many sectors. India is in the forefront with respect to artificial intelligence and robotics. However, the country is lagging slightly behind in the robot race when compared to technology aggressive countries like US, China and South Korea.

If India has to keep up with its neighbor and competitor China, which is rapidly progressing in AI based research and development, we have to include AI related innovation and infrastructure in nationwide developmental projects. Indian government’s flagship program Digital India is aimed to transform the nation into a digitally empowered society with a conducive ecosystem that can improve greatly the country’s productivity and wealth. The interface between the researchers, industry and government needs to be robust to provide for advancement in technology and thereby growth.

AI will not happen by default like IT did years ago. There has to be a sequence of deliberate efforts and policies that will offer a healthy collaboration between education and corporation, supported and driven by the government of India. The conventional system of education with deep focus on academics rather than skills is deeply embedded and it could take a while to bring in skill based learning – a burning need in view of the penetrating employment scenario of manufacturing automation and robotics.

Skill building and vocation based training with stress on specialized skills that AI cannot replace in the near future is the path to take for Indian talent to play a role in the global arena.  Thanks to the globalization coupled with digital economy, the Indian consumer is already enjoying the benefits of the advancing AI technology. AI powered applications are extensively used by online shoppers and entertainment has taken on a new meaning with digital apps like Netflix, Amazon Prime and India’s very own, Hotstar. Both in retail and in entertainment, AI plays a role in making recommendations based on the consumer’s interests and preferences.

In a labor surplus market like ours, it is disturbing to imagine machines replacing the human workers. A global survey conducted in latter half of 2016 across select European, African and Asian countries shows India ranking amongst the top three countries implementing robotic automation in their core business processes. Companies like Bajaj Auto and Aurolab have adopted cobots (small collaborative robots) to supplement human effort. It is imperative for India to gradually but steadily evolve a robot based manufacturing eco system. If we merely import and use robots without creating them within India, our technology professionals will be soon deprived of their jobs. There is no doubt we have adequate talent for ideation and design. With appropriate infrastructure, we can match and even surpass China’s commitment to artificial intelligence.

Intel India Maker Lab in Bengaluru is dedicated to the cause of growing India’s innovation ecosystem. The Union Budget on the first of February announced the roadmap for the National AI program comprising academicians, government officials and industry experts. The industry on its part has IT leaders like Wipro, TCS and Infosys introducing and establishing their own AI products and platforms. More than 3000 engineers have moved away from mere software maintenance tasks to advanced IT jobs.

So, if China aims to be a world leader in Artificial Intelligence by 2030 India will not remain an observing bystander. The nation is now poised and ready for the AI revolution. Clearly AI is the future and the India is fast picking up pace in developing its technologies.