Mukesh D. Ambani, chairman and managing director, Reliance Industries Limited

Artificial intelligence (AI) is emerging as a powerful tool for digital transformation. Globally, AI-based technologies are changing the technology landscape. India, too, is gearing up to harness the opportunities arising from the use of AI to address social issues and push economic growth. At the inaugural session of the Responsible AI for Social Empowerment (RAISE) 2020 virtual global summit organised by the Government of India in partnership with industry and academia, Mukesh D. Ambani, chairman and managing director, Reliance Industries Limited, spoke about the use of AI in achieving India’s digital vision. Edited excerpts…

AI is indispensable for India’s tryst with her digital destiny. Six years ago, the Government of India launched the Digital India mission and made it a top national priority. The results have been spectacular.

Firstly, India has delivered 4G broadband coverage to more than 99 per cent of our citizens. We have gone from the 155th position worldwide to number one in terms of mobile data consumption. With 5G around the corner, India will maintain its leadership position.

Secondly, with the priority of connecting every home and workplace, India is now rolling out a massive pan-Indian optical fibre network that will connect not only all our cities and towns, but each of our 600,000 villages. This will put India among the top nations in fixed broadband as well.

Thirdly, as a part of the Make in India initiative, we are now creating the capacity for affordable manufacturing of all necessary digital devices, sensors and equipment within India.

Fourthly, India is becoming a leading nation in compute power, with world-class data centres. Along with internet of things, this is laying the groundwork for smart platforms that will converge the physical and digital domains, and boost productivity and efficiency to unprecedented levels in all sectors of our economy.

We now have all the crucial components in place to make India a premier digital society. Together, our economy and society will generate data at an explosive and exponential rate.

Data is the raw material for AI. Intelligent data is digital capital. It is a vital national resource. In the past, nations have competed on physical capital, financial capital, human capital and intellectual capital. But, in the coming decades, nations will increasingly compete on digital capital.

India has the unique advantage to harness its enormous digital capital for AI-driven development, which is bottom up and inclusive. This is because of our twin strengths of democracy and demography.

When 1.3 billion Indians are digitally empowered, they will unleash a proliferation of new digital enterprises that will create faster economic growth, greater prosperity, high quality employment opportunities, and better standards of living across all sections of our society.

We are confident that the government will introduce a sound data regulation framework to protect this national resource and ensure data privacy. Therefore, the time is ripe, and the tools are ready, to make India a world leader in AI, and to make AI work for all Indians.

It is important to understand the epoch-changing significance of AI. The advent of modern AI is comparable only to the birth of intelligent life on our planet. In the coming decades, the total non-biological intelligence will exceed the rational intelligence of the entire human population.

But this does not mean that AI will replace the human mind. It never can. It never will. Rather, AI and other associated technologies of the fourth industrial revolution will vastly expand our capacity to solve the most complex and pressing problems before India and the world. Specifically, AI will enable India to move faster towards achieving the five ambitious goals set by the Indian government – of transforming India into a high-growth economy on its path to $5 trillion; of making our industry and our small businesses atma nirbhar and dominating new global value chains; of modernising the Indian agricultural sector and multiplying the incomes of our farmers; of delivering high quality and affordable healthcare to all Indians; and of delivering world-class education, skill training and talent enrichment to every Indian, including those in the remotest parts of rural India.

The ongoing hardships and hurdles caused by the coronavirus pandemic will be temporary. India has the resilience and resolve to bounce back and progress faster than ever before. The entire nation is ready to implement an agenda that will promote AI for a strong, sustainable and equitable new India.