Roshy says Artificial Intelligence is a type of technology that can be used in all kinds of fields such as banking, manufacturing, tourism and retail.

TCS exec writes to Kerala CM for separate Ministry for AI experts think its too soon
news Technology Wednesday, February 13, 2019 - 15:03

With the speed at which technology is growing, it won’t be long before driverless cars and robots replicate nearly everything humans do, thanks to Artificial Intelligence (AI). AI is a system where machines develop human intelligence, enabling them to perform complex human actions such as visual perception, speech recognition and decision-making.

AI has percolated every industry. There are AI-driven system, AI-based smartphones, AI-based appliances and the list goes on. While India has also been recognizing the potential of this fast emerging technology, one state is betting big on it – Kerala.

Few days ago, Roshy John, Global Head for Robotics and Cognitive Systems at Tata Consultancy Services (TCS), submitted a memorandum to Kerala Chief Minister, Pinarayi Vijayan, to set up a ministry exclusively for AI.

“It was a huge setback that both the Union and the State budgets this year had no adequate allocations for AI,” Roshy said in the petition.

The United Arab Emirates (UAE), on October 2017, became the first nation to have a Ministry dedicated to AI. According to a report by futurism.com, the UAE’s AI strategy covers development and application in nine sectors: Transport, health, space, renewable energy, water, technology, education, environment, and traffic.

Need for an AI Ministry

Roshy says AI is a type of technology that can be used in all kinds of fields such as banking, manufacturing, tourism and retail. According to him, a ministry for Artificial Intelligence should be able to do a study on the various jobs and industries in which AI can be used in the state. “There is a lot of scope in the field of AI in the future and it will be good for the govt as a lot of major companies at the moment are now focusing on AI. If the government is able to study the different areas in which AI can be used in the state, it will allow companies to invest in the state, adding income to the government,” Roshy tells TNM over a telephonic conversation.

And according to Roshy, the need for an AI ministry is immediate and not something that should come up in the next 5-10 years.

Over the years, India has been a breeding ground of job opportunities in the field of BPOs, call centres and other fields related to audio-based communications. “With the arrival of AI, there will be no need for humans to do these jobs,” says Roshy, adding that one of the main impacts of AI will be to take over the responsibility of taking care of redundant work that used to be done by humans before, and thus reducing the burden on the companies to invest on human workforce.

“Basically, it will come to a point where the human intervention in most of the simple jobs will be limited,” says Roshy.

But what about the loss in employment it could potentially cause? Roshy says that is where the need for the ministry comes in, which will have to rehabilitate those who lose their jobs to AI.

“Most of the workplaces will be taken over by AI in the future and it is inevitable. This means that a huge number of people will lose their jobs. Having a ministry will ensure that these people who lose their jobs will be reskilled in various other fields related to AI,” Roshy adds.

Experts disagree

While Roshy sees an urgent need, several experts in the field of IT and digital journalism that TNM spoke to are not in favour of a separate ministry for IT.

Joseph C Mathew, IT advisor to former Kerala CM, VS Achuthanandan, and a current CEO of an IT startup says that he doesn’t feel enthusiastic about this idea of an AI Ministry.

“Firstly, taking the current state of affairs in the state, I don’t think this should be one of the concerns of the government. Even from an IT industry perspective, I don’t see anything that requires the push from the Govt. Industrial leaders can decide as to whether they should invest in AI or not, but I don’t think the state government should focus on that right now,” Joseph tells TNM.

Devadas Rajaram, a professor of New Media at the Asian College of Journalism in Chennai feels that India hasn’t achieved complete “social media literacy” yet and that having a ministry for AI won’t be of any use at the moment. “It is not clever to have a ministry just for AI because AI is part of an emerging technology. It is feasible in places like UAE because they have the money, even then it is not known to working well there,” he says.

Joseph says that AI is nothing but a ‘law of averages’, which means, “creating some intelligence based on the response pattern of other human individuals. That is another way of saying that the future will be designed on the basis of the law of averages.”

Joseph says that instead of focusing on establishing a Ministry for AI, the Kerala Government should focus on developing Kerala’s USP, which is man power. “We are into communication technology. The Government should make sure that the workforce gets better skill training in the field that they are strong at,” he adds.

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