AI4Bharat will be a community of AI professionals, students, domain experts, policy makers and academicians collaborating on solving real-world challenges

IIT Madras faculty launch platform to accelerate AI Innovation in India

The faculty of the Indian Institute of Technology Madras are launching a platform – ‘AI4Bharat’ – to build Artificial Intelligence solutions to address India’s problems and accelerate AI Innovation.

AI4Bharat will be a community of AI professionals, students, domain experts, policy makers and academicians collaborating on solving real-world challenges in Agriculture, Healthcare, Smart Cities, Digital India, and sustainability.

AI4Bharat was launched today, i.e. the 10th July 2019, and it aims to harness demonstrated AI technologies to solve real-world challenges. It is founded by Dr. Mitesh M. Khapra and Dr. Pratyush Kumar, Assistant Professors in the Department of Computer Science and Engineering, IIT Madras.

Speaking about the role of AI in today’s context, Dr. Pratyush Kumar said, “AI is one of the defining technologies of this age. However, much of the research in AI today is driven by the problems of the West. For instance, building autonomous cars takes priority over building systems that can monitor the condition of rural roads. We need to change this by shifting the focus to India. This is where domain experts and the government would play an important role – identify problems that are unique to India and can benefit from AI.”

Dr. Mitesh M. Khapra added, “To solve such problems it is important to move AI research and development out of silos and create a platform where AI professionals can come together to design and build impactful solutions. With this in mind, our immediate goal is to create a community of 100 selected AI experts and 50 domain experts.”

The platform is also open to enthusiastic students who will be mentored to solve these problems. The students, according to the faculty, will not only learn in the process but also contribute to nation building.

Speaking about the measures taken to they bring in the required AI talent to achieve these goals, Dr. Pratyush Kumar said, “We realize that there is an acute shortage of AI talent in India and look at education as an important function of this platform. Our startup ‘One Fourth Labs’ will work closely with AI4Bharat and offer basic and advanced courses in AI at affordable prices – as low as Rs. 1,000 for a five-month online course. These courses are designed with the goal of imparting requisite skills for solving real-world problems. Our next batch starts on 15th August 2019 and registrations are now open.”

The timing for launching this platform couldn’t have been better. Today, AI is a hot technology and is even recognized as so by Niti Aayog, the broad-based think-tank of the government. It would be interesting to see how AI4Bharat can contribute to existing AI initiatives by the government.

Elaborating on this, Dr. Mitesh Khapra said, “We would like to work closely with the government. That is the only way to achieve impact at scale. Much of the government-funded research in AI today focuses on solving problems of tomorrow and is geared towards ambitious outcomes. While we should continue doing such research, it is also important to solve real problems on the ground today. The potential is there, the onus is on us to harness it and solve the right problems to maximize impact. The emphasis has to be on solving, and solving today”

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