Indian government intervenes in battle over AI roles

By on 01/11/2019 | Updated on 24/09/2020
K. VijayRaghavan, the government’s principal scientific advisor and former secretary of the Department of Biotechnology, is to chair the new committee. (Image courtesy: eLife).

The Indian government has formed a committee to resolve differences between the Ministry of Electronics and IT (MeitY) and policy think tank Niti Aayog over the implementation of the government’s artificial intelligence (AI) programme.

The new panel is chaired by the government’s principal scientific advisor K. VijayRaghavan – a professor and former secretary of the Department of Biotechnology – and will include the chief executive of Niti Aayog, the secretary of MeitY, and the secretary of the Department of Science and Technology.

The committee is tasked with rooting out duplication of work between various arms of government on AI, and to specify the role of different agencies in implementation, an official – who did not wish to be named – told The Economic Times.

“The panel has been formed to resolve the overlaps between Niti Aayog’s and Meity’s plans for AI,” the official said.

Niti Aayog received clearance from the Expenditure Finance Committee (EFC) for a budget of R70bn (US$987m), while MeitY has sent a separate R4bn (US$56m) proposal to the EFC to set up a national AI programme.  

MeitY has announced that it will be setting up a national AI centre in January, though no further details have been announced. It also aims to develop AI applications and to run proofs of concepts in the areas of health and education. Niti Aayog’s roadmap includes setting up 20 institutional centres for transformational AI, five centres of research excellence, and a cloud computing platform called AIRAWAT.

A senior Niti Aayog official told The Economic Times that there was no tension between MeitY and the think tank over their AI projects. “We work together to take India forward,” they said.

About Mia Hunt

Mia is a journalist and editor with a background in covering commercial property, having been market reports and supplements editor at trade title Property Week and deputy editor of Shopping Centre magazine, now known as Retail Destination. She has also undertaken freelance work for several publications including the preview magazine of international trade show, MAPIC, and TES Global (formerly the Times Educational Supplement) and has produced a white paper on energy efficiency in business for E.ON. Between 2014 and 2016, she was a member of the Revo Customer Experience Committee and an ACE Awards judge. Mia graduated from Kingston University with a first-class degree in journalism and was part of the team that produced The River newspaper, which won Publication of the Year at the Guardian Student Media Awards in 2010.

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