How Union Budget 2024 Can Pave the Path for India's AI Revolution Generative AI models, relying on Graphic Processing Units (GPUs) for advanced neural network tasks, are facing a global shortage due to increased demand across industries

By S Anjani Kumar

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In just over a year, Artificial Intelligence (AI), specifically Generative AI, has transformed the way we work and engage with society, marking only the initial phase of its potential impact. Generative AI models, relying on Graphic Processing Units (GPUs) for advanced neural network tasks, are facing a global shortage due to increased demand across industries. The ever-increasing demand for Generative AI applications, further driven by rapid adoption across industries and in view of its transformative potential, has created a significant global shortage of GPUs.

NVIDIA currently dominates the market, with major players like Google and Microsoft investing in AI chip development to address the scarcity. This reliance on GPUs creates a significant gap between nations and companies with access to abundant GPUs and those facing shortages, underscoring the urgency of securing essential hardware and infrastructure.

With the Union Budget 2024-25 on the horizon, here are some expectations from the government to boost AI in the country.

Allocation of budgetary resources

Considering the criticality of the subject and the widening gap between countries with access to GPUs and those without, it is imperative that the government allocate sufficient budgetary resources to initiate, build, and sustain the infrastructure required for advanced AI development. AI infrastructure is as critical as any other physical infrastructure element.

While private players have initiated actions to upscale the AI infrastructure in India, there needs to be an aspect of government involvement as well to enable equitable sharing of AI resources. Start-ups, academic institutions, research bodies and social impact organizations find it difficult to get access to and afford GPU Infrastructure and this is where a Sovereign GPU Cloud comes into the picture. Similar to the MeghRaj initiative which aims to democratize cloud computing and accelerate e-service delivery, there is a need for the Government of India and the State Governments to establish and maintain foundational infrastructure specific to AI. To establish India as a prominent force in the global AI landscape and safeguard the sovereignty of Indian data, it is essential to swiftly secure access to a limited supply of GPUs at the most economical cost.

Funding in R&D programmes

Reviewing the AI research landscape, we observe stark global divides, with research publications and grants heavily concentrated in only a handful of AI-advanced countries in the past few years. The US and China are the leading nations in this regard with the highest number of AI startups and cumulative private investment in them. US private investment in AI between 2013-2022 stands at ~US$ 250 Bn, far beyond the next 10 countries combined3. India stands in 7th position with ~US$ 8 Bn in private investment so far and ~300 AI startups in this period. India contributed to 5.6% of the AI journal publications globally in 2021, up from just 1.3% in 2010. To effectively sustain and build ahead on this lead, India Inc needs to further ramp up investment in research focusing on AI technologies.

Establishing collaborations

Looking beyond immediate budgetary allocations for infrastructure and funding research, there is merit in establishing collaborations with international experts to further the development of AI in India and mold it into an AI hub. While some aspects of research and applications of AI are secretive by nature, there exists a strong argument for fostering collaboration between institutes and countries. By participating in joint projects, reviewing and resharing research findings, and engaging in collaborative studies and initiatives, India can promote exchange of ideas and further the advancement of AI. To this end, public and private research institutions are well placed to actively seek out and work with leading international agencies and companies on AI. Government budgetary support would give a timely boost and bring India into the limelight in the ever-evolving AI landscape.

Need for regulatory framework

With the Union Budget 2024-25 on the horizon, and the government's push to grow India as a leader in the AI space, due consideration needs to be given to trust and safety measures. With the many advantages that AI brings, we are still looking at a critical level of misuse and distrust due to improper control and security measures. To ensure data security and enact privacy measures, regulatory frameworks tailored to AI applications need to be developed and implemented. The government should also encourage development of AI systems which are built to be transparent, explainable, and accountable to build public trust. Investing in public awareness campaigns to educate citizens about AI and its implications can allay concerns and foster trust.

Also, while AI tools till date, including several popular Generative AI applications, have been built privately with limited oversight, it is imperative that future development is undertaken within trustworthy boundaries. The budget needs to provide consideration and funding for specialized committees with experts in the field to create broad frameworks and regulations for AI development and deployment. Research on identifying and mitigating inherent bias in AI systems should be funded to promote inclusivity and fairness. Additionally, human involvement and presence in the loop is critical to ensure development of responsible and ethical AI.

India's burgeoning AI landscape holds significant potential to revolutionize the country and its economy across sectors. Realizing this, it is necessary that some major steps are taken in order to ensure an AI ecosystem that benefits all.

S Anjani Kumar

Partner, Consulting, Deloitte India

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