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Responsible Artificial Intelligence for Social Empowerment



Ravi Shankar Prasad

Success of Digital India has set a new global benchmark for leveraging digital technologies for inclusive growth, good governance and empowerment of common citizens. Benefits of digital technologies that were a luxury of affluent classes a few years ago have now become easily accessible for masses. Rapidly changing technology requires continuous evolution of systems, faster and adequate regulatory responses and building capacities to meet emerging challenges. The advent of Artificial Intelligence is not merely an incremental change but a major paradigm shift in the technology landscape, which must be viewed holistically and harnessed for the wellbeing of humanity.

Data is the basic building block for any Artificial Intelligence system. India with over 700 million Internet subscribers, 1.21 billion phone users and 1.26 billion Aadhaar users is generating a massive amount of data every day. India has the largest user base for some of the major Internet companies in the world. India also offers the most affordable Internet services in the world. Indian IT sector, which has already proven its mettle in the world, ensures the availability of competent human resources. These, along with the leadership of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who always encourages the use of technology for improving the lives of citizens, leaves India poised for an Artificial Intelligence revolution.

In 2018, the National AI Strategy was published by the Government of India. Since then several initiatives have been undertaken to develop a strong AI ecosystem in the country by the Ministry of Electronics and IT. Center of Excellence in Data Analytics (CEDA) has been established to provide expert data analytics services to government departments. In collaboration with the IT industry Centers of Excellence have been set up in Bengaluru, Gandhinagar, Gurugram and Vizag where so far 113 startups have been incubated, 29 Intellectual Properties have been generated and 56 sectoral solutions have been developed. Future Skills Prime online capacity building platform has been launched to skill and re-skill the professionals in emerging technologies and in new job roles with an aim to benefit over four Lakh professionals. National Artificial Intelligence Portal has been launched as a one-stop digital platform for collaboration and knowledge sharing in AI. Very soon National Programme on Artificial Intelligence will be launched by the Ministry of Electronics and IT after seeking approval of the Union Cabinet.

Learning from public digital platforms like Aadhaar, UPI, GSTN and GeM, the Government has decided to encourage setting up of several public digital platforms in the field of health, agriculture, education, logistics, language translations etc. With the announcement of National Digital Health Mission by the Prime Minister on Independence Day 2020, the work on a public digital platform for health has begun. Ministry of Electronics and IT is developing an AI-based Natural Language Translation Mission in collaboration with academic institutions, research institutions, industry and startups, which will pave way for a voice-enabled Internet in Indian languages. In a similar manner, different Ministries of the Government of India in collaboration with the industry, academia and startups are in different stages of finalizing the sectoral public digital platforms. These platforms shall offer AI-based services in their sectors while addressing the data security and privacy concerns of the users. These platforms will create immense opportunities for Indian startups as well.

Developments in technology bring changes and raise concerns as well. When large scale computerization was undertaken, there were concerns about wide-scale unemployment. But eventually, computers and information technology became one of the biggest employment creators. In the same way, Artificial Intelligence will also replace certain existing job roles but it will also create several new job roles. The world needs to manage this transition effectively so that it does not aggravate disparities in societies. Through initiatives like Future Skills Prime, India has already started the work to re-skill its workforce for future job roles in the field of IT. India’s approach for responsible AI for social empowerment seeks to leverage AI for inclusive growth and empowerment of common citizens by addressing the concerns of exclusion and redundancy of employees by AI systems.

Artificial Intelligence must lead to greater social empowerment, especially of the poorer and marginalized sections of society. It should be developed in such a manner that it solves problems faced by people. India’s vision to extensively use AI in fields like healthcare, agriculture, education, logistics and languages is inspired by our commitment to leverage AI for social empowerment.

Data resources are going to play a vital role in the development of Artificial Intelligence. However, concerns regarding the misuse of data and breach of privacy of users must be addressed adequately by the AI systems. Government of India has already introduced a robust Personal Data Protection Bill in the Parliament, which seeks to protect the privacy of users in the digital age and at the same time facilitate the development of a strong data economy. It is pertinent to mention here that any attempt to create a monopoly in digital space by misusing the data of Indian citizens will receive a strong response from the Government of India. Action taken against certain mobile apps recently clearly indicates that the Government led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi is committed to protecting the data privacy of Indian citizens and data sovereignty of India.

Artificial Intelligence also generates several ethical and legal concerns that must be addressed. Algorithms that define the set of rules to operate AI systems must be free of any biases and prejudices. For example, face recognition systems must not show any racial or ethnic biases or news and social media systems must not be biased towards any particular political ideology. Conventional laws that are based on the basic premise of jurisdictions are being challenged by transnational technologies. Rogue elements sitting in any part of the world can disrupt the peace of any other society and we saw that in the recent CAA agitations and Delhi riots in India. The world needs to collectively address these concerns as well.

India is one of the founding members of the Global Partnership on Artificial Intelligence- a multilateral collective to develop responsible AI. India is also working with several countries on a bilateral basis to develop AI ecosystems. India’s biggest AI summit RAISE 2020 seeks global collaboration for the development of Artificial Intelligence ecosystem that is responsible towards humanity and committed towards social empowerment. PIB

The author is the Union Minister for Electronics and Information Technology, Communications and Law & Justice

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Culture of an organisation and changing it



Culture of an organisation

BY Mohammad Mutaher Zerger

Culture of an organisation! So what is this culture? Something we subscribe to once we enter an organisation. Something that needs to be learnt? Something that’s aloud? Well, culture is culture, whether it is of a civilisation, a species or a family. It’s something, which is an invisible code of conduct, something which a person is accustomed/ acclimatised to, over a period of time, being at where he is.
Culture is like the atmosphere. It is invisible, yet its effect is felt and felt strongly. If you are able to survive within this atmosphere/ adapt to it, you feel better there, if not, you feel hypoxia.
Lots of startups these days feel the need for a culture; actually there, always is one, but it’s not the one which is feasible for their organisation now, it isn’t keeping pace with the pace of the development of that organisation, their demand is to become more adaptive and innovative and for that their culture needs to be the one which enhances that adaptation and innovation, aiding their rapid growth and expansion. So they are actually looking for a Cultural Change.
Culture change is often the most challenging part of the transformation of this young organisation. Innovation and speed demand new behaviours from leaders and employees that are often opposing/hostile to corporate cultures; which has historically been adapted/ has historically come into existence.
Culture change can’t be achieved through top-down mandates or SOP. It lives in the collective hearts and habits of people and their long term perception of “how things are done around here. Someone with authority can’t demand compliance to culture, it’s within.
Well, What are some of the things we can do to enhance the change of the auto-adapted culture of an organisation?
Simply explaining the need for a change of a culture is not going to change it, there are some vital practical steps (among numerous ones) which an organisation needs to employ over a period of time to bring in that some change in the culture, and make this culture bend towards the direction the organisation wants it to bend towards.
Cause of existence of an organisation and its benefit to society and employees at large:
The growth and actions of the organisation should speak about the benefits it is imparting to the society and employees at large; the growth should be synchronised with the vision; what this rapid growth has in store for the employee and the society as well. Some short term benefits should be employed immediately and long term ones should be clear without any fog. This will give the employee an inert, inner, sense of security, which will auto help him, adapt to the cultural change, without him consciously knowing that he is adapting to this change of culture; actually without him knowing that culture is changing.

Creating the Networks of Change

Advocacy of change and its benefits to the organisation and people within and outside the organisation should be aloud. It can be so when an organisation creates a network of advocates who have understood the benefits of this change, and this network goes out and re-networks and again re-network to make this change understood to the masses at large. It takes its similarity with the adaption of the religions worldwide, where the missionaries go all out to spread it, advocating its benefits for the one who adapts it and to the society at large.

Creating Dissemination Platforms

Creating dissemination platforms is vital for understanding the response. It’s like having dual communication with the people who are the recipients of this cultural change. Encouraging the employees and leaders to interact on these platforms is required.

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Rising unemployment



Rising unemployment

The rising unemployment is turning into a major issue in Jammu and Kashmir. The number of youth who want to work but find no jobs is highest in J&K, as per a recent study. According to the Centre for Monitoring Indian Economy (CMIE) recently released figures, J&K has a 21.6 percent unemployment rate that is the worst among states/Union Territories in India. Tackling the high unemployment rate needs a holistic response from the government, where it should be drawing policies to find long-term solutions. Otherwise, it is going to turn into a catastrophe in future.

But the government response so far is very short-sighted, where it does not have any real planning to create jobs for the unemployed youth of the UT. Though it is not possible for the government to provide job to everyone, but it is the responsibility of the government to bring such policies which will create more jobs, provide professional skills, right kind of education, and boost industrial and entrepreneurial activities, which will help the youth to find jobs. It is the government, who does all macro-level planning and decides policy matters, that includes a job policy as well.

In J&K, unfortunately, the government only burdens the state exchequer by employing more and more people in the government sector. J&K has the highest government job ratio as compared to any Indian state or a UT. Beyond government jobs, there is almost nothing from the government to offer. Self-employment and entrepreneurship have been made next to impossible, as the babuism and high handedness of the banks make it extremely tough for the educated youth to get loans and receive project clearances. Given the self-employment figures from the last few years, there is little room for any optimism.

Though it is not possible for the government to provide job to everyone, but it is the responsibility of the government to bring such policies which will create more jobs, provide professional skills, right kind of education, and boost industrial and entrepreneurial activities, which will help the youth to find jobs. It is the government, who does all macro-level planning and decides policy matters, that includes a job policy as well.

Despite many claims, the figures from the JKEDI, KVIB and other institutions responsible for the handholding of startups and new enterprises are not encouraging. Similarly, the last two years have been very tough for the people, who would go outside for jobs or small businesses. Due to COVID19, a huge number of people who were working outside have lost their jobs, while the imports of Kashmir crafts have nosedived.

Another problem is that, despite some initial efforts, there has not been much progress on the skill development front. J&K imports most of the skilled workers required in the construction sector or industries. There must have been incentives for the local youth for learning and doing such works. The rising unemployment rate and labour shortage do not sync. It indicates the skill gap and policy failure.

The Himayat programme, where ‘not so educated’ youth are provided with some communication skills and basic computer knowledge so they can work in the unskilled market in different industries and corporates. However, the programme has not shown so good results, as was expected by its planners. The retention rate of these trainees in different cities of the country is very less so far. Besides, creating a migrant labour force is not a panacea for the unemployment problem. To tackle the issue, the government needs to look for creating employment avenues within J&K by attracting investment.

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Covid19 reopening: A close watch needed



Covid19 reopening

Jammu and Kashmir, like other parts of the country, continues to battle the Covid19 pandemic. Though the number of daily positive cases is not as alarming as it would be a few months earlier, yet there are some indications of a slow rise in positive cases in the past few weeks. This situation clearly calls for very careful handling of the situation, especially in view of the apprehensions of a possible third wave hitting the country in the months of October and November.

In a welcome move, the Jammu and Kashmir administration recently ordered phased reopening of educational institutions, including colleges and higher-level schools. It was a long-pending demand of all stakeholders, in the larger interest of the student community, to allow children to return to their on-campus classes after a long hiatus. The move coincided with the phased reopening of businesses in the Union Territory to infuse a fresh lease of life into the otherwise ‘dismal’ economy that was badly hit in the wake of the Covid19 pandemic.

The post-pandemic situation calls for revival of economic activity to enable people associated with various trades to resume their businesses and earn a livelihood following a depressing scenario. There is a large section of the population directly dependent on daily earnings to make both ends meet.

There is no denying the fact that the post-pandemic situation calls for revival of economic activity to enable people associated with various trades to resume their businesses and earn a livelihood following a depressing scenario. There is a large section of the population directly dependent on daily earnings to make both ends meet.

It was therefore imperative upon the administration to take care of the interests of this section of the society. It is equally a fact that the resumption of academic activities across Jammu and Kashmir was the need of the hour to enable students to interact with their teachers and peers, re-socialise on the campuses and heave a sigh of relief. To this extent, the administration took certain welcome decisions. However, the fact that the pandemic is still not over can’t be overlooked in such a scenario. It is therefore important to watch the situation very closely for its better management and minimal disruptions in case of any eventuality like the third Covid19 wave.

The onus to ensure a close watch on the situation certainly lies on the officials concerned, especially the Deputy Commissioners of various districts. In the past two months, the number of daily positive cases largely ranges from 100 to 200. This is not alarming if a comparison of these figures is made with the figures of the previous few months. But the level of unpredictability is too high to be taken casually. On September 22, the UT recorded the highest single-day tally of 204 Covid positive cases—up from 145 cases recorded a day earlier. This is where the situation demands utmost caution. At the official level, it is important to keep a track of these figures to decide on further reopening. If the rate of positivity surges, it would be in the fitness of things to reconsider the further process of reopening and reimpose the curbs, wherever necessary. Alongside, it is imperative to ensure that mass gatherings are disallowed and people adhere to the Covid Appropriate Behavior (CAB) in letter and spirit. The administration also requires to watch the Covid scenario in other states of the country and handle the inflow of tourists and visitors to the UT accordingly in strict adherence to the SOPs. The situation just cannot be allowed to go out of control any longer. Sustained and focused attention on the situation can go a long way in facilitating its better management at all levels.

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