Today's Editorial

Today's Editorial - 13 April 2024

Why India Needs A 'Ministry Of AI'

Relevance: GS Paper II & III

Why in News?

Establishing a Ministry of AI is crucial to leveraging economic opportunities and ensuring national security. Failure to establish such a ministry could lead to falling behind in the global technology race, and our demographic advantage could become an economic liability.

Need of AI ministry:

  • Failing to engage in this AI revolution could turn our demographic advantage into a severe economic strain. Otherwise, just like we are paying in dollars for oil, we will also be paying for artificial brains in the future.
    • McKinsey outlines harnessing artificial intelligence (AI) is crucial for India's journey toward a $30 trillion economy by 2047.
  • In 2017, the UAE set a global precedent by appointing Omar Al Olama as the world's first AI minister. That decision was a clear sign of the country's head-on embrace of the AI era.
    • With its wealth of tech talent and burgeoning AI potential, India should take a similar leap.
  • Unlike the Industrial Revolution, which unfolded over centuries, or the digital revolution, where we had a few decades to adapt, the AI revolution is racing at an unprecedented pace, deeply impacting every aspect of society and economy.
  • The establishment of a Ministry of AI is crucial for national security in the face of technological warfare.

Significance of AI Ministry:

  • According to the experts who believe in India's potential to become an economic superpower and self-reliant nation, the AI ministry would allow India to respond faster, given that a new economic value of $15.7tn will be generated by 2030.
  • The Ministry of AI would spearhead initiatives to integrate AI in vital economic sectors, oversee AI-driven projects directly contributing to the GDP, and collaborate internationally to maintain a competitive edge.

Role and responsibilities of AI Ministry:

  • The Ministry of AI in India would be the central nerve for:
    • AI for Good: Applying AI to solve social challenges, from health to environment
    • Digital Diplomacy: Shaping global AI policies to protect India's interests
    • Advanced Manufacturing: Leveraging AI to boost production efficiency and competitiveness
    • Jobs and Regulation: Creating new tech jobs and setting fair AI guidelines
  • The ministry would foster AI literacy through public campaigns and develop targeted training programs, ensuring that all sectors can adapt to AI advancements.
    • For example, a young student mentioned Chitale Dairy in Pune, India, and their pioneering use of RFID tags. "Imagine," he said, "once AI is implemented, they'll likely predict our shopping list before we even create it."
    • Meanwhile, two insurance agents were discussing the future of their industry. "AI could simplify routine claims, leaving us to handle the more complex ones". "I need to enrol in an AI course," he added, acknowledging that the rules of their game were changing.
  • The Ministry could implement regulatory frameworks to ensure AI's ethical integration into industries like retail and insurance, safeguarding jobs while enhancing efficiency.
  • It would also be responsible for setting fair AI guidelines and ensuring that AI is not used to exacerbate existing inequalities, thereby addressing concerns about AI's social impact.

Challenge in AI adoption and alignment:

  • One of the main challenges is transforming the large, youthful workforce into a skilled, AI-ready group.
    • Adam Smith discussed how scarce labour can drive up wages, sparking innovation. Today, as AI reshapes economies, a similar shift is taking place. Developed countries, facing slow GDP growth and ageing populations, are embracing AI for productivity.
  • Another challenge is ensuring that AI systems are developed safely, fairly, and tailored to India's diverse needs.
  • Moreover, though abundant, India's AI talent and data may not be in the most usable form right now. 
    • The challenge is effectively leveraging this talent and data to develop AI systems to address India's unique problems, from healthcare access to financial inclusion to educating 300 million school children to climate change.
    • India's position in the global AI race is a paradox of potential. A study published in the Harvard Business Review (HBR) highlights India as a significant dark circle, indicating the rapid growth of data and the challenges of harnessing this vast resource effectively.

Opportunities available:

  • With over 1.4 billion people, India has the potential to build the world's largest AI-enabled workforce, particularly among the 900 million youth in the 15-64 age group
  • Once widespread AI adoption and alignment are achieved, feedback from this vast population will be driven, ensuring that AI systems are inclusive and representative of India's social and cultural diversity.
  • India has strengths across many dimensions, including the largest volume of mobile data consumption globally. 
    • It is predicted to become the world leader in data consumption by 2028
    • India already processes more digital payments than any other country in the world and has the third-largest AI talent pool. While it restricts data access, its AI regulation rules are still flexible.

Way forward:

  • By creating a Ministry of AI, India can strategically navigate the challenges and unlock the full potential of its data.
    • India has great potential to transform its vast data reserves into a powerhouse for innovation and economic growth. However, the country needs proper governance to channel its data reserves into productive solutions.
  • A large public-private $10 billion fund focused on AI is needed to promote AI entrepreneurship in India. 
    • This will create a domestic capital pool to help young entrepreneurs tackle India's problems and develop robust, safe, and equally applicable solutions for Southeast Asia, the Middle East, the European Union, and the US. 
    • With India's diverse data resources, solutions developed by Indian entrepreneurs will have wide-ranging applications across the globe.
  • Solving the problem of leveraging talent and data to develop AI systems will require a collaborative effort from all stakeholders, including policymakers, businesses, and the public.


India's vast human resources could become a burden if they are not AI-ready. With an AI Ministry, India can harness the tech for productivity and redefine the country's work, innovation and growth journey.

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