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Vaishnaw, Sundar Pichai Talk Digital Economy, AI Use, Responsible Tech Regulations

Union minister Ashwini Vaishnaw on Monday said India’s UPI system was a success and the startup ecosystem will soon be taken to tier II and III cities to hone talent from smaller cities and towns. “The UPI payment system is a success and similar digital platform we will keep building for healthcare, logistics and different sectors. We will be taking the startup ecosystem to tier 2 and 3 cities as we see many talents coming out of these smaller cities and towns, so we will try to channel that,” he said about India’s priorities.

Vaishnaw was speaking at the eighth edition of Google for India, where he mentioned that in the most recent Network Readiness Index 2022, India ranked first in Artificial Intelligence talent concentration. “We would like to channelise that through the very stable and comprehensive legal and regulatory ecosystem,” he said.

He further noted that AI was going to play an important role in India’s tech-based growth and there were several areas where it will make a significant difference, such as agriculture. According to him, this also played a part in breaking the language barrier in the country and “making credit accessible to the people at the bottom of the pyramid, that is going to be a major task”.

The IT minister also stated that Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s vision was that a society that was digitally empowered must have a comprehensive legal framework and so the government was working on the development of the Telecom Bill, the Digital Data Protection Bill, and the Digital India Bill.

“Technology brings new opportunities as well as challenges. In India where the adaption of technology is rapid while the cost of data is low, in such a scenario how do we create a legal and regulatory structure which matches India’s needs and is built around our reality…and that’s the way we are working,” the minister added.

He said the mentioned bills were three horizontals on top of which will be “multiple small sectoral focused modular regulations”.

At the Google event, Vaishnaw also said: “Once we have all these bills in place then it will create a robust framework in which we can use some of the public data sets and we will use them and harness the power of technology to provide better solutions and services.”

However, several industry experts told News18 that though the use of AI would help India accomplish its digital mission, the country would still need an AI-specific legal framework to ensure its right usage. At this moment there is no such framework in India, but it is expected that the government may introduce the Digital Personal Data Protection and Telecom bills during the monsoon session.

AI for India

At the event, which took place in Delhi on Monday, Sundar Pichai, CEO of Alphabet — the parent company of Google — said tech needs responsible regulations and it is important for countries to think about how to best safeguard citizens. He said: “We are engaging constructively and India has a leadership role to play here, given the scale and technology leadership it will have.”

However, while talking about Google’s plans, he said the idea is to find out where the tech giant can use AI that will fit the core mission of the company, which is all about serving the people who seek information.

“One of the key parts of our mission is to make Google universally accessible and useful. We are increasingly using AI to scale up the number of languages we can offer, and we recently added 9 Indian languages. Now we are working on one powerful AI model which can bring information across thousand languages, to make sure it’s available to more people,” the Google CEO added.

Later, in the Google blog post, Pichai highlighted that “it’s always special to come back to India” and it is also because the CEO wanted to share new ways “we’re helping to advance India’s digital future”.

“That includes our efforts to build a single, unified AI model that will be capable of handling over 100 Indian languages across speech and text – part of our global effort to bring the world’s 1,000 most-spoken languages online and to help people access knowledge and information in their preferred language. We’re also supporting a new, multidisciplinary centre for responsible AI with IIT Madras,” the blog post noted.

During the event, it was said Google has partnered with a software company called Mandiant for end-to-end security capabilities and also to ensure that users are safe while using its services. Royal Hansen, VP of privacy, safety and security at Google, said during the event that to ensure online safety, the tech giant is also invested in user awareness, supporting the local community and prioritising skilling.

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