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India connected: Nandan Nilekani is right; the next phase of digital India needs to be AI-powered


A big achievement of the present dispensation at the Centre has been to give a thrust to digital India. It was able to push the JAM trinity and make financial inclusion possible for millions. Now, Nandan Nilekani, the architect of Aadhaar, believes it is time to shift focus. Speaking at an event, on the fifth anniversary of digital India initiative, Nilekani said that the focus needs to shift to artificial intelligence (AI) and improving the ease of doing business. He believes that the amount of data we shall generate over the next few years, given the shift to online, warrants India adopt AI.


While Nilekani is right, only new city administrations have been able to do this successfully, and the pandemic has exposed frailties in the system. Metros like Delhi and Mumbai did not have centralised hospital management, prior to the virus. So, if India is to move in these fields, it will need to set up frameworks to feed data to AI systems. More important, the government needs to collaborate with start-ups and partner with Indian platforms to drive adoption. ICMR announced that it would be using IBM Watson to improve data entry. Many more organisations need to sign such deals, instead of developing systems from scratch. Unless the government partners with start-ups or established enterprises in the field, none of what Nilekani envisages would be possible.

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