Business Today

How AI Can Drive Socio-Economic Transformation

Artificial intelligence could add at least a trillion dollars to our economy by 2035.
Rekha M. Menon   New Delhi     Print Edition: June 3, 2018
How AI Can Drive Socio-Economic Transformation

India is one of the fastest growing economies in the world. Yet it remains a 'lower-middle-income' country and continues to lag on key social development indices. How can India accelerate its socio-economic transformation? It can be done through the widespread use of exponential technologies such as artificial intelligence (AI).

Other countries have done this successfully in the past. In 1960, Japan's per capita was 16 per cent of the U.S. per capita, but within a few decades, it became an equal by using advanced technologies to lead the global automotive sector. Similarly, South Korea leveraged the latest technologies to come up with advanced products at a reasonable cost. Today, China is embracing digital and AI-based technologies to enhance its competitive edge. All three nations have moved faster up the Global Innovation Index rankings than India and are also ahead in the Human Development Index (HDI) ranking.

India can accelerate just as quickly. We are already pushing meaningful policy reforms, and established Indian businesses are actively embracing innovation. India needs to build on this further and tap into its demographic edge, technical prowess and a vibrant start-up ecosystem to embrace advanced technology solutions that spur and sustain socio-economic growth.

The technology in the spotlight today is AI. This megatrend of all technology trends could add at least a trillion dollars to our economy by 2035.

It will do so by augmenting labour productivity and innovation, driving growth through intelligent automation, human-machine collaboration and innovation diffusion. Some of these are already in play in the form of smart factories where humans and machines are starting to work side by side to improve outcomes. In the insurance sector, machines are doing repetitive tasks, allowing humans to focus on more complex, judgement-based processing and customer service. New opportunities are also created through innovation spillovers. For instance, Google Maps is helping drive the growth of Uber and Ola, revolutionising personal transport and creating employment for a large number of people.

AI, used in combination with robotics, Big Data analytics, Internet of Things (IoT) and genomics, could also improve the lives of our farmers. Solutions for traditional challenges such as the unpredictability of weather or soil conditions, or the increasing costs of farm labour are being used extensively in several parts of the world, and precision farming, enabled by these technologies, is globally proven to increase crop yields, reduce farmers' costs and boost profits. In fact, a study we conducted in India a few years ago demonstrated that digital farming and connected farm services could add $9 billion to the annual income of farmers by 2020.

AI technologies have been around for decades, yet the full extent of their impact may not be felt for some time to come. Someday, AI will be as pervasive as electricity and will give rise to new industries created specifically to solve problems that we do not even know today.

We must move fast. Yet, as we do so, it is important that we look ahead and mitigate potential issues that could arise as AI becomes more ubiquitous in business and society. It is essential that we equip our people with the education, training and support they need to take on the many jobs that will be created. We also need to make AI responsible. Government and businesses must work together to develop a code of ethics - tangible standards and best practices to develop and use intelligent machines - and the debate around it must continue.

 

The writer is Chairman and Senior Managing Director, Accenture in India

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