As an increasing number of businesses and sectors are adopting new-age technologies such as artificial intelligence (AI), the need for AI professionals is skyrocketing. The government of India acknowledged the need for upskilling or reskilling in the field of AI and has launched various initiatives over the past few years. Appearing in the parliament today, Minister of State for Electronics & Information Technology (MEITY), Rajeev Chandrasekhar enumerated various steps the centre has taken in order to boost AI training, including for those currently enrolled in various public schools across the country.
For instance, in collaboration with NASSCOM, MEITY had initiated FutureSkills PRIME program for re-skilling/ up-skilling of IT professionals in 10 emerging areas, including AI. According to the data provided by Chandrasekhar, 7 lakh candidates have signed up on the FutureSkills PRIME Portal, out of which, 1.2 lakh candidates have already completed their courses. In addition, 524 trainers and 4292 government officials have been trained on these technologies by NIELIT/C-DAC Resource centres, and around 1.3 lakh unique learners have collectively earned 8.9 lakh ‘badges’ in recognition of having completed bite-sized digital fluency content. Under AI, 36,528 candidates are enrolled in deep–skilling courses and 47,744 candidates are enrolled in foundation courses.
The FutureSkills PRIME programme has as its aim the need to re-skill/ up-skill aspirants in emerging technologies so that they stay relevant in their present job with improved prospects, besides finding new avenues in future job roles. The programme also targets those who may have lost their existing jobs due to disruptive and emerging technologies. Towards this, the programme takes into account employment linkages, such as a ‘Career Prime’ web page on the platform and an integrated ‘Career Portal’, which provides information on IT-ITeS jobs, internships, apprenticeships, hackathons etc. Under FutureSkills PRIME, incentives are available to the trainees, including those from economically weaker backgrounds, after the learner is successfully assessed and certified. The incentive mechanism is aimed at motivating the learner to complete the online up-skilling/re-skilling programs.
The government is not just focusing on professionals but preparing India’s youth for AI as well. One such national programme is called Responsible Use of AI for Youth. The objective of this programme was to empower the youth to become AI-ready and help reduce the skill gap. The government started this initiative along with industry partners in order to promote AI awareness among public school-going children. As per government's data, in Phase I, 50,666 students and 2536 teachers from 2252 schools from 35 states and UTs attended orientation sessions on AI. In Phase II, 100 teams have been shortlisted and have undergone extensive mentoring by AI experts. In Phase III, Top 20 students have demonstrated their solutions at the national conference.
Other than these initiatives, the government of India had also come up with its comprehensive National Strategy for Artificial Intelligence in June 2018 and proposed to develop an ecosystem for the research and adoption of AI.
For making AI-related articles and reports easily accessible, the government had also created a ‘National AI Portal’ which is a repository of AI-based initiatives in the country, but all in a single place. It has 1024 national and international articles, 655 news, 200 videos, 90 research reports, 279 start-ups, and 120 government initiatives listed at National AI Portal.
To promote capacity building, the minister said that the centre has taken various steps, such as initiating the ‘Visvesvaraya PhD Scheme’ to enhance the number of PhDs in Electronics System Design & Manufacturing (ESDM) and IT/IT Enabled Services (IT/ITES) sectors in the country. The research areas under the scheme include AI (covering 82 PhD fellows) and Machine Learning (ML) (covering 59 PhD fellows).
Even the Department of Science & Technology is implementing the National Mission on Interdisciplinary Cyber-Physical Systems (NM-ICPS) to promote R&D, Human Resource Development (HRD), Technology Development, Entrepreneurship Development, International Collaboration etc. As part of the Mission implementation, 25 Technology Innovation Hubs have been established in reputed institutes across the country in advanced technologies, including in AI/ML. The government had also organised Responsible AI for Social Empowerment (RAISE) in 2020, a first-of-its-kind global meeting of minds on AI to drive India’s vision and roadmap for social transformation, inclusion and empowerment through responsible AI, which was attended by over 79,000 stakeholders from academia, research, industry and government representatives from 147 participating countries.
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